St Albans’ internationally infamous sinkhole road is officially reopened by city mayor

PUBLISHED: 12:31 08 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:31 08 December 2016

Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole.
Left to right: Mayor Frances Leonard cutting the ribbon with residents Ben Bagshaw and his son Finley Bagshaw 14 months old

Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole. Left to right: Mayor Frances Leonard cutting the ribbon with residents Ben Bagshaw and his son Finley Bagshaw 14 months old

Melissa Page Photography 2016

Residents of a cul de sac, including one-year-old baby Finley Bagshaw, have welcomed the return to normality after the official reopening of St Albans’ sinkhole road.

Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole. Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole.

Glasses of bubbly and smiles were the order of the day at Fontmell Close last Saturday (3) when St Albans Mayor, Cllr Frances Leonard, officially reopened the fully restored road.

The ceremony brought an end to the drama of October 1, 2015, when a 12 metre-wide, 10m-deep cavity appeared. That was followed by the temporary evacuation of residents, who have since waited patiently during numerous underground surveys, the restoration of utilities and for the road to be made safe again.

Cllr Leonard said: “This is a joyful day for the residents of Fontmell and Bridle Closes. I know that it’s been a very difficult time for everyone.

“I have been particularly impressed by the way people have worked together to make the best of things and look after each other.

Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole.
Left to right: Mayor Frances Leonard cutting the ribbon with residents Ben Bagshaw and his son Finley Bagshaw 14 months old Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole. Left to right: Mayor Frances Leonard cutting the ribbon with residents Ben Bagshaw and his son Finley Bagshaw 14 months old

“I’m also pleased that the various agencies have been able to work together to ensure that the road reopens before Christmas.”

Among those welcoming the official reopening was Fontmell Close resident Julia May, who said that while the sinkhole had ‘disrupted life’, the district and county councils “have dealt with it really well”.

She added: “I’m delighted that we have one of the most investigated streets in Herts – that is such a luxury. Sinkholes and crown holes are very common across the UK, but we are in the position that we know that we aren’t going to have another one.”

Some people have unfavourably compared the length of time taken to repair Fontmell Close with a recent collapse in Japan, where a huge cavity in a road was fixed within just a week – but has since begun to sink again. However, Julia said the time taken with “the repairs were not the issue.

Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole. Mayor Frances Leonard saying a few words Re-opening of Fontmell Close, St Alban's, AL3 5HU after repairs following a sinkhole. Mayor Frances Leonard saying a few words

“It was more knowing what was going on to the left and the right of the sinkhole [after survey work]. In Japan they don’t know that because they just filled in the hole.”

She said it was more important for local residents, and those accessing fields and the playground behind the closes, to know the vicinity had a ‘clean bill of health’.

Julia recalled the night of the sinkhole vividly as she had hosted a rehearsal session for four members of local jazz band Freefall Jazz.

She said: “The bass player, Chris Mottram-Wooster, was the last person to leave and physically drive over the road at about 12.45am. She was driving a big Volvo full of gig gear.”

The road collapsed at about 1am on October 1, 2015.

Chris told the Herts Advertiser: “When I woke up later that morning, and spotted an item on the news about the sinkhole, I thought, ‘oh, where is that?’ and then I recognised the street.

“I thought ‘crikey’ and realised I must have been the last person to drive over before the road went. It was pitch black as well.

“It had been very late when I left Julia’s home. I had put my stuff in the car, and we were chatting. My Volvo V70 is a big, heavy car.”

Herts county council and its highways contractor Ringway filled the hole with 48 lorry loads, 535 cubic metres, of foamed concrete.

Cllr Terry Douris, cabinet member for highways, said he was pleased “we’ve reached the stage where this nightmare is almost over for residents and they can resume their normal lives.

“We appreciate it has taken some time to get to this stage, but we owed it to residents to make sure the area is safe, which it is, and that the reinstatement job is done properly.”

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