Council says Hemel Hempstead sinkhole site ‘had no history of building collapse’

Sinkhole in Hemel Hempstead. Courtesy of Sky News helicopter.
Sinkhole in Hemel Hempstead. Courtesy of Sky News helicopter.

New details have been released about the housing estate where the Hemel Hempstead sinkhole appeared on Saturday.

The land on which it was built was acquired by owner Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association between 2005 and 2007.

The seven homes that were then on the site, off Wood Lane End, Hemel Hempstead, were demolished in 2008 to create the current Oatridge Gardens development of 48 properties.

Dacorum Borough Council spokesman Luisa Clarke said the original seven homes had been on the site since the late 1960s and were privately owned. She said that none of them had collapsed.

She said: “A ground investigation survey report of the site was done in 2005 for Hightown, and this accompanied the planning application which was made to Dacorum Borough Council in 2006.

“The report covered a range of ground conditions and referred to the area being used in the past for clay extraction, and the ground having been made up.

“The report made recommendations about construction methods for the new homes, including piled foundations.

“These recommendations were carried out during construction.”


Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning says he is talking to the evacuees and the organisations investigating the cause of the sinkhole every day.

People who have been displaced from their homes have been put up in hotels or are staying with family or friends.

But Mr Penning said it is important that longer-term accommodation be found for them unless they can get back into their own homes soon.

The sinkhole is 20 feet deep and 35 feet wide and stretches underneath a house and large stretches of road.

The highway has now begun to collapse into it, but so far the property is still stable.

Mr Penning said: “It was no surprise that gravity has taken over and the road has started to collapse into it.

“What they are still trying to find out is what has caused the sinkhole.”

Early reports suggest the sinkhole may be connected to former clay pits and chalk mines used by a former brickworks that operated on the site in the 1870s.

Another theory suggests subsidence problems may have been caused by a water leak near one of the homes.


Neighbours of the sinkhole were given just 30 minutes to collect all of their belongings on Monday.

Among them was plasterer Mark Borman, who has still not been allowed to collect his van – which is now in the expanded danger zone around the site.

Justin Yates, a relative of his and a director of boxing and removals firm the Jam Group, rushed out to help him.

Fellow director Matt Williams said: “Three of us went out and started loading the van with his relative’s belongings.

“We found lots of other people in the same position and gave them free boxes.”

The firm sent out a second van – and is now keeping the belongings of two of Mark’s neighbours in storage at its Boxted Farm base in Potten End.

Some of the people who live near the sinkhole have still not been allowed to collect their belongings.