Sinkhole house 'close to collapse'

Halstead Gazette: A view of a large crack on a house in Magdalen's Close, Ripon, after a 25ft wide sinkhole opened up in the street A view of a large crack on a house in Magdalen's Close, Ripon, after a 25ft wide sinkhole opened up in the street

A sinkhole has opened up under a detached house, leaving part of the structure close to collapse and a community concerned about the future of their properties.

No-one was hurt when the 25ft (7.6m) wide hole opened up beneath the 100-year-old building in Magdalen's Close in Ripon, North Yorkshire, at 5.40pm yesterday.

But firefighters rescued a dog from the property before the whole area was sealed off amid fears that the precariously leaning side of the brick property could fall at any time.

This morning, neighbours said the 30ft (9m) high wing was still moving.

Local councillor Stuart Martin said he had spoken to the family living in the house and they were "very distressed".

Local residents said there was a long-standing problem with gypsum-related subsidence in the area which had caused other homes to collapse over the years.

Emily Moon, who lives opposite the rear of the property, said: "It's a bit of a shock, really.

"It's definitely widened since first thing this morning.

"We've been aware for quite some time that there's a gypsum problem in this area."

Ms Moon went on: "You can't see the hole from here - just the poor house splitting in two.

"It's a worry for us residents, really. We're assured that our buildings are safe. But it's a bit close for comfort, really."

Mr Martin, who is the local Tory councillor on Harrogate Borough Council, said planning permission for more than 70 homes had just been refused on a derelict site next to the building.

He said: "I'm a little bit shocked by what's happened today. Surprised? Perhaps not, because there is a history in Ripon of gypsum dissolution.

"Whether this is actually down to gypsum, I don't know. I think it's too early to say. I suspect it is."

He said: "My thoughts go out the the residents who were actually living in the house.

"It must be tremendously worrying at this point.

"I've spoken to them this morning and offered my support.

"They were very distressed this morning and they just wanted to get some sort of normality back into their lives."

The British Geological Survey has said that the most susceptible area in the UK for sinkholes is the Permian gypsum deposits of north-east England, particularly around Ripon.

It says large sinkholes have developed around Ripon, some of which have affected property and infrastructure. This is because gypsum is far more soluble than limestone, and thus dissolves more rapidly.

Last night, police o fficers carried out house-to-house checks in the area to warn people close to the affected property.

Police, fire crews and the ambulance service remained at the scene with utility services' engineers and structural engineers who were assisting with the incident.

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "The affected property and two houses nearby have been evacuated and a cordon has been put in place to protect members of the public. At this stage no injuries have been reported."

A fire service spokesman said last night: "A fire engine and a heavy rescue unit from Ripon are currently on scene at Magdalen's Close in Ripon where cracks have appeared in the ground, causing damage to a nearby building.

"There are no occupiers in the property and one dog has been successfully rescued. Residents from adjacent properties have been evacuated as a precaution.

"The crews have cordoned off the area and are awaiting the arrival of specialist engineers."

The sinkhole is the latest in a spate to appear after a 35ft (10.7m) wide and 20ft (6.1m) deep one opened up under homes in a quiet cul-de-sac in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on Saturday morning.

Last week a stretch of the M2 in north Kent was closed after a 15ft (4.6m) deep hole was discovered in the central reservation, and on February 2 a teenager's car was swallowed up when a 30ft (9.1m) deep crater appeared in a family's driveway in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Two more sinkholes have appeared about a mile from the hole that opened up on the M2 motorway in Kent, local resident Colin Parsons said.

The two holes opened up in the past three weeks about 500 yards apart on farmland between Sittingbourne and Faversham.

One sinkhole is about 9ft deep and the other about 10ft deep. Highways contractor Mr Parsons, 55, said: "One of them looks like a giant footprint.

"The first one appeared three weeks ago. As I was walking with my wife, we went to look at another spot where one had opened up before and, sure enough, another one was there.

"The interesting aspect to this is that these have appeared about a mile from the M2 where one occurred, and they will keep opening up."

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