Families and firms get that sinking feeling
PUBLISHED: 13:12 12 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:12 12 March 2015
Hole opens up in Gravesend's Lawrance Square
Council tenants have had to be rehoused and businesses have been told they need to close after part of a Gravesend road collapsed last week. Sarah Linney reports ...
FAMILIES had to be moved out of a Gravesend street last week after a hole suddenly opened up in the road.
Seven council tenants in Lawrance Square, Coldharbour, Northfleet, have had to be rehoused by Gravesham Borough Council as a result of the subsidence.
Traders on one side have also been told they need to close – but many have remained open, determined to cling onto their livelihoods despite the risks, while the council tries to find them temporary accommodation.
Denise Locker said her daughter Donna Harvey had been told she and her two children could be displaced for between six and nine months.
Ms Harvey is to be moved to a two-bedroom bungalow nearby, but will have to stay with Ms Locker for at least three weeks while the council gets it ready.
“There are elderly people who have been here for 20 years,” Ms Locker said.
“It is a really upsetting situation and we still don’t know the cause of it.”
The council had to call on an independent surveyor, who confirmed that the area was dangerous and the block of homes was at risk, after the hole opened up on one side of the shops, fracturing a sewer.
The shops were advised to close and the tenants were told not to drink the tap water – an instruction which has also been given to people living in nearby streets, although there is no suggestion that they will have to move.
The gas in the area was then turned off last Wednesday.
Ward councillor Shane Mochrie-Cox said: “We are working on temporary accommodation for the businesses, but we need to find out exactly what they need.
“We are waiting for the professionals to come and tell us exactly what it is.
“It could be a drain that’s been leaking and caused a bit of subsidence, or a sinkhole. We live in a very chalky county, so things like this happen quite often around Kent.”
A council spokesman said that all but one tenant had moved out of the flats.
“All the tenants have been offered temporary accommodation and will be rehoused while the works are carried out,” the spokesman said.
“It is not known how long the work will take until further investigations are completed.
“Tenants have been advised at every stage of the process. Removals and reconnection to utilities have been arranged by the council.
“We are looking at ways to help the shops start trading again as soon as possible.”
The tenant who has not moved has been offered several alternative accommodation options and the council says it is continuing to try to find somewhere where she is happy to go.
Cabinet member for housing and ward councillor Sue Howes said: “We have made every effort to help people.
“We understand some did not want to move, but we cannot allow people to remain in homes at risk from potential subsidence and that are now without basic services.”
Only the shops on one side of the parade have been advised to close, and those on the other side are reminding people they are very much open for business as usual and that their side of the road is safe.