TORY MP Bob Spink has called for a new law to protect communities from hazardous industrial sites, following the explosion at the Coryton oil refinery.

On Wednesday, Castle Point MP Bob Spink watched in horror as a 100ft plume of smoke drifted towards Canvey minutes after the explosion rocked the refinery in Corringham.

Now the MP is calling for legislation that would introduce a "safe siting policy" which would lay down stringent rules on how close hazardous sites could be built to residential areas.

Any such law could only apply to future planning applications.

However, if it was passed in time, it could have an influence on Calor Gas's plan to expand its terminal on Canvey. The company is expected to resubmit its plans in coming months.

Control of major acccident hazards sites, such as the Coryton refinery and the Calor plant, are only covered by Health and Safety Executive advice given to authorities.

When considering new applications such as the proposed Calor terminal expansion, planners could choose to ignore such advice.

Dr Spink, who worked closely with Canvey campaign group People Against Methane in fighting the Calor expansion before it was withdrawn ahead of a public inquiry last month, said: "We saw all too graphically this week how great a risk these sites pose, especially when there is little separation from home and schools, and the handling and storage of volatile explosive materials.

"This incident shows how important it is to resist Calor's proposals. I will be raising these matters in Parliament and I will address the safety issues surrounding such hazardous sites.

"I have assurances from the refinery and the Environment Agency there were no toxic fumes released by the fire. But I have asked for an environmental impact assessment, including run-off issues and toxic fume analysis."

The MP said he would introduce a Private Members' Bill and make a speech in Parliament on January 15, which would focus on a policy to ensure there is statutory national guidelines to protect communities. He said he would also fight any further attempts by Calor to build a liquid natural gas terminal near a densely-populated area of Canvey.

Investigation under way

AN investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion and blaze at the Coryton oil refinery.

Officials are trying to understand how a gas leak resulted in a fierce blaze erupting at the Petroplus plant, near Corringham.

The full inquiry into the incident is taking place between staff from Petroplus, which bought the plant from BP earlier this year for almost £75million, and the Health and Safety Executive.

Experts are to examine any similarities between the fire and the huge explosion at an oil storage depot at Buncefield in Hertford- shire, in December 2005.

Refinery manager Jon Barden has stressed the majority of the plant is operating normally and customer deliveries are being maintained.

He added: "Coryton refinery has been an important part of the community in this part of Essex for many years and a large part of our workforce live in the surrounding area.

"The safety of everyone both inside and outside the plant is our top priority."

Around 80 firefighters spent several hours tackling the flames and worked to cool the tower down to prevent it from completely exploding and fortunately no one was injured.