A property owner has described being evacuated with his pregnant wife and two-year-old daughter on Saturday morning after a sinkhole appeared beneath the building they lived in.
Allan Walker had to leave behind all of his possessions – including the car seats, toys and blankets for his children. His wife is now eight and a half months pregnant.
He said: “It’s heartbreaking. It is quite obvious we will not be going back into our property on a living basis for some time – if ever.”
He owns 50 per cent his Oatridge Gardens property in Hemel Hempstead – and it is adjoined to the semi-detached house below which a sinkhole appeared on Saturday.
He says he cannot even claim insurance for any of the things he has left behind, as it is unclear whether he will be able to collect them again.
The home – which he shares ownership of with Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association – may have to be demolished with everything inside of it.
Hotel rooms have been offered to all evacuees.
But because the Walkers chose to stay with family, Dacorum Borough Council will not put them on the register of accommodation for the homeless, Allan said.
He said he reported to Hightown that his garden path had lifted two days before the sinkhole appeared.
He said: “If you have got information that there could be a sinkhole in a property, surely it becomes a priority – but they did not send anybody out.
“I got a response from someone saying they had forwarded my email on to the maintenance team.”
He said the night before the sinkhole appeared he had noticed his laminate flooring, skirting boards and carpets sinking into the ground beneath them.
Another part of his flooring had lifted upwards and he said it was quite obvious from what he had seen that his house had moved.
Describing the day when the sinkhole appeared, he said: “There was a loud crash at about six o’clock in the morning.
“I ran round the house and checked it all as I had noticed some cracks appearing the night before.
“My garden path had lifted even more than when it did when I reported it to Hightown on Thursday.
“I did not see anything as I did not look outside and then got a knock on the door at about 7.30am from a couple of young builders, telling me to get out of the house because there was a massive hole in front of it.”
‘I MOVED OUT THE DAY BEFORE, BUT MY BURGERS ARE STILL IN THERE’
Andy Abbott, 23, moved out of his Oatridge Gardens home the day before a huge sinkhole appeared beneath it.
But his freezer – and all of the stock for his burger van, which is stationed during the week on nearby Mark Road – is still inside of the property.
He said: “I moved somewhere nearer the town centre on the Friday night and had hoped to come back and collect it later.
“But then my dad came and said: ‘Your house is on Sky News and there is a massive hole next to it.’
“It’s a bit annoying as the freezer and stock together was probably worth £500. But my van was just above the hole on Friday night, so I was lucky really.”
SHOULD HOMES HAVE EVER BEEN BUILT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
It has been reported that council homes previously based on the site were demolished due to subsidence problems.
It is understood that the land was later sold so that new homes could be built there. Dacorum Borough Council has yet to comment on the matter.
A statement from the authority was released late last night to say that the investigation into what caused the sinkhole is ongoing.
Work is focussing on securing the area and making it safe from further collapse, and looking into the cause of the problem to inform longer-term solutions.
Council leader Andrew Williams said: “We are offering our full support to Hightown.
“Our role, as one of the organisations working on this multi-agency issue, is to advise on the safe structures viewpoint, as well as helping Hightown to address the immediate issues faced by the affected families.”