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Investigations continue into sinkholes by reservoir near Hermitage Lane, Barming

People living close to sinkholes which suddenly appeared at the weekend have spoken of the worrying moment police knocked on their doors.

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.

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

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.

Loni Kilgannon, who lives in Fynamour Close, was among those who was warned about the sinkholes opening up close to her home.

"It was very frightening," she said. "The police knocked just after 11pm on Saturday and said the situation was uncertain and we should pack a bag and be ready to leave.

"We didn't wait to be told to go, we packed up and went to stay with our parents for the night."

Mrs Kilgannon, who is back in her property today after being told by South East Water it was safe, said she found the whole situation very worrying.

One of the sinkholes as it appeared on Saturday night in Barming
One of the sinkholes as it appeared on Saturday night in Barming

She said: "It's still an unknown. Why did this happen?"

Her neighbour, Chelsea Cardan, had her own theory.

She said: "I think it's all to do with the number of new houses. There's building still going on now at Peafields at the other end of this estate.

"I've lived in Barming for 25 years and I know there have been sinkholes appear from time to time, but never at this end of the village."

In May 2018, a sinkhole opened up on the A26 Tonbridge Road , forcing 10 nearby homes to be evacuated as a precaution.

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

It took workers more than 8,000 hours over a period of five months to repair the damage, which caused disruption for residents and lost revenue for nearby businesses.

Although at this stage it is not believed that anyone living near to where the holes appeared has had to leave their home, Maidstone Borough Council says it is on hand to assist if needed.

A spokesman said: "All residents in the immediate vicinity have been contacted and anyone who wishes to leave their property and is unable to secure temporary accommodation through their household insurer or with friends or relatives is asked to contact Maidstone Borough Council on 01622 602000."

The reservoir where the ground has sunk is a large concrete tank with a lid which holds treated drinking water temporarily before it reaches people's homes.

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

"Safety is our number one priority..."

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.

Douglas Whitfield, South East Water operations director, said: "Our teams have been working tirelessly alongside specialists to make the site of our drinking water storage reservoir on Hermitage Lane safe, and begin surveys to understand the extent of the sinkholes on site.

"Surveys are continuing this week following the appearance of a series of voids around the water storage tank on Friday and Saturday.

"Safety is our number one priority, therefore we switched off the tank during the weekend and re-directed water around our network of underground pipes in the town to keep customers' taps flowing. We are continuing to work closely with the local authorities and update residents."

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