Plans for Ripon homes abandoned over sinkhole fears

The 2016 sinkhole which led to 12 properties being evacuated at Ripon.
The 2016 sinkhole which led to 12 properties being evacuated at Ripon.

Plans to build a new block of council homes near Ripon's town centre have been abandoned due to concerns over sinkholes, it has been revealed.

Housing and safer communities cabinet member Mike Chambers told October's full meeting of council that 17 new-build units at Allhallowgate "cannot progress".

Plans for new council housing in Ripon have been dumped over ground stability concerns. Image: Google Maps

Plans for new council housing in Ripon have been dumped over ground stability concerns. Image: Google Maps

He said there had been "significant problems with ground stability" at the site "which has taken a lot of time, money and effort to try and sort out".

The local democracy reporting service revealed earlier this year that it had been recommended that any building on the site be designed with foundations and “escape paths” aimed at withstanding sinkholes up to 20 metres in diameter.

However it appears now that the long-running plans for new council homes in the area have been ditched.

Permission for a raft of development on Harrogate Borough Council-owned land at Allhallowgate and Finkle Street in Ripon was initially approved in 2015 and 2016.

Among the work was the construction of the new build units, as well as a major refurbishment programme for existing council units on Finkle Street.

Coun Chambers confirmed to councillors that the refurbishment of those flats would go ahead, but said the future was unclear for the land which had been pinpointed for the new builds.

"We will continue to redevelop the existing parts of Allhallowgate (and) the sizes of the apartments will be increased and modernised and be put back into use as quickly as possible," Coun Chambers said.

"As for the rest of it, we now have to look at how we proceed with Allhallowgate as to what we do with the land...as soon as I have anything concrete we will let you know."

It comes after an investigation undertaken by an engineering firm in August found that ground instability "could be foreseen" on or near the site, while the measures that would have to be taken to reduce the risk of collapse weren't cost effective.

Ripon sits above a layer of gypsum, a water soluble rock which leads to the formation of large underground caves which can collapse.

A major sinkhole event in 2016 saw twelve properties in the city evacuated after a six-metre deep hole appeared.

Last year a Sainsbury's was closed when a hole opened up at the rear of the shop.

Dr Vanessa J Banks of the British Geological Survey said last year that Ripon could expect to have sinkhole events of one every three to five years.

"The process of sinkhole occurrence in the Ripon area is largely attributable to the dissolution of gypsum in the Permian rocks that underlie the city," she said. "The natural rate of occurrence of these features appears to be in the order of one every three to five years."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter