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MPs call for halt to housebuilding around Hermitage Lane in Barming after appearance of more sinkholes

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An urgent halt to housebuilding in an area plagued by sinkholes has been demanded by two MPs.

Tracey Crouch and Helen Grant have appealed to Secretary of State for Housing for "an urgent moratorium on all future housebuilding" around Hermitage Lane in Barming after huge sinkholes opened up at the weekend .

Sinkholes appeared in Barming near Maidstone at the weekend
Sinkholes appeared in Barming near Maidstone at the weekend

The area has seen a number of voids appear in the ground in recent years, most notably on the A26 Tonbridge Road, which caused months of disruption to residents and businesses.

In the joint letter the parliamentarians note neighbours raised their concerns over the sinkhole risk in relation to an application for 187 houses off Oakapple Lane, on land known locally as the pea fields.

They write: "The area has been subject to a number of recently approved large scale planning applications which have attracted a significant level of local opposition and which we have both opposed.

"Much of the concern has been related to the capacity of the local infrastructure to cope with such development and as if to prove this late last week another sinkhole has opened at a South East Water site, adjacent to a housing development site, causing disruption to local residents and the hospital.

"With the area having a history of sinkholes opening in recent years, local residents raised this precise concern with a local planning authority in relation to an application for 187 houses earlier this year, arguing that more development in the area would increase the likelihood of more sinkholes in the future.

Tracey Crouch MP
Tracey Crouch MP

"In light of this most recent case, these concerns appear justified."

They are asking the minister, Robert Jenrick, for a brake on development in the area, having met with him in December to outline their concerns.

"Therefore, given the recent disruption yet another sinkhole has created and the ongoing concerns over the ability of local infrastructure in the area to cope with demands of more development, we are calling for an urgent moratorium on all future housebuilding in the Hermitage Lane and Barming area until these concerns can be investigated and properly addressed," they conclude.

The earth collapsed in a number of places in Barming close to water storage tanks near Hermitage Lane, with the first hole opening up on Friday and more appearing on Saturday.

Engineers from South East Water, which operates the infrastructure supplying nearby homes, are expected to remain on site in the coming days as they continue to survey the damage.

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

South East Water switched off the tank at the weekend and re-routed supplied to ensure water kept flowing to homes in the area.

The company has now installed 60 monitoring points in the ground which they are reviewing twice daily to detect any further ground movement.

They say that the sinkhole closest to properties in a nearby housing development is smaller than first thought.

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