St Albans sinkhole hell: pensioner describes nightmare of living with the fallout of the Fontmell collapse

PUBLISHED: 17:20 12 November 2015 | UPDATED: 17:56 12 November 2015

A temporary stairway has been installed to help residents gain access into Bridle Close

A temporary stairway has been installed to help residents gain access into Bridle Close

Archant

A distraught pensioner 'trapped' by the St Albans sinkhole has contacted the Herts Advertiser in tears over the impact the cavity has had upon her life.

Six weeks after the 12-metre-wide sinkhole swallowed part of Fontmell Close, the upset woman, who is in her 70s and does not want to be named, urged the district and county councils to keep residents better informed and improve access to the still-closed site.

She has ruined pairs of shoes walking across a field used for pedestrian and temporary vehicular access behind Bridle Close, where she lives, and has seen her daughter’s vehicle bogged down in muddy ground.

After the cavity appeared in the road on October 1, an emergency access road was created for residents of Fontmell and Bridle Closes to enable them to get vehicles out via a playing field in Bernards Heath behind their cul de sacs.

It is accessed from the end of Bridle Close, and doubles as a pedestrian route.

Arrangements were also made for them to park at the site of the old fire station behind the Pioneer Club.

A temporary track was laid down to protect the ground but as the councils had concerns about the underlying geology of the fields, they were not keen to have the access used by other vehicles, apart from emergency ones.

The pensioner said: “I am fed up with the lack of action. My daughter’s car got stuck in the mud on the field last Thursday.

“It has been muddy for weeks. It’s awful. They keep saying they are doing a temporary road but nothing is happening. It is very slippery.”

She has also seen other residents’ vehicles getting stuck in the muddy ground.

The woman described herself as being ‘trapped’ as taxis had refused to collect her from the end of Bridle Close because of the muddy conditions.

And she said that it was not always practical to wear or carry a pair of wellingtons when she needed to access the car park at the former fire station.

It did not help that the field was ‘pitch black’ late at night – a problem she encountered after a recent night out when she stumbled through a wooded area near the Pioneer Club.

She added: “The temporary road is perishing. It is thick with mud, and I have ruined my shoes. I’m trapped. Yet I haven’t seen a single soul from the council – my gripe is that no-one has come round for three weeks from council.”

The pensioner said she was also concerned about emergency vehicles accessing homes in the area.

Richard Shwe, the district council’s head of community services, said emergency services had contingency plans in place, including the Fire Service which has a 4X4 response vehicle available.

He admitted that the temporary surface had deteriorated rapidly in recent poor weather but said it had been put down quickly to deal with an emergency situation in the aftermath of the sinkhole.

Mr Shwe said the county council was “designing a more durable temporary road access across the fields to last for a sustained period.

“Survey work has been necessary to ensure the route will be safe for heavier vehicles. Time scales will depend on the weather, and the results of the survey work but this is a high priority project.”

He said that in the meantime, the district council had recently introduced a 4X4 vehicle to provide a shuttle service to transport residents to the temporary parking area, operating between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

The council was hoping to extend the hours and would also improve the pedestrian access route.

Acknowledging that it has been a “very difficult time” for residents, Mr Shwe added: “We would like to thank them for their continued forbearance”.

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