Concerns for children raised as woodchip returns to port

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RESIDENTS have raised concerns about the return of woodchip to Shoreham Port, particularly as a school extension is being built nearby.

Health concerns arose in 2011 when Stobart Biomass began storing woodchip for export and people said dust could often be seen in the air.

The woodchip operation ceased last year, but it is now up and running again, with woodchip arriving this week.

John Oakley, of Brambledean Road, Portslade, said work had begun on the new junior school at St Peter’s Road, before the woodchip operation returned.

“It is 300 yards away from the site, the width of the river, and it’s downwind,” he said.

“I think the parents of the children will be concerned. If the dust starts coming across, it will affect the children.

“It is something that wants sorting out.”

The building work means children will be able to stay from reception until year six and it will be renamed St Peter’s Primary School in September.

Shoreham Port chief executive Rodney Lunn acknowledged there had been problems in the past, but said the issues had been addressed.

“Last time, there were some dust issues, so now we have got a bigger chip and we are confident that it won’t create so much dust this time,” he explained.

“It is just arriving into the port and has not been exported yet.”

He said the port had invested in a special machine to reduce the impact of the dust.

“It creates a mist over the chip, which gets the dust to settle back into the water,” he said.

“It might look like dust, but it is a mist cloud we are throwing over the chip.

“We are very much aware that there was an issue in the past and we have worked closely with Stobarts and the Environment Agency.

“We are very close to our neighbours here and we want to be a good neighbour, so any issues that do come up we take seriously.

“When the issues first arose two years ago, Shoreham Port independently tested the wood chip and found it would not affect health.

“It is something that we keep a very close eye on,” said Mr Lunn. “We don’t want to put any dust into the neighbourhood.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “There has been no wood chip stored on the site since August last year.

“However, we have investigated two complaints regarding nearby grain storage but did not find any breaches of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“There are currently no outstanding complaints.”

The Environment Agency said it would continue to monitor the site, including dust emissions.