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Could sink hole appear under Yarmouth’s historic South Quay?

PUBLISHED: 09:31 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 09:31 28 February 2014

Holes have opened up in the planters along South Quay. Pic: LC

Holes have opened up in the planters along South Quay. Pic: LC

Archant

Gaping voids under Great Yarmouth’s historic quayside have worried heritage buffs that it could be at risk of collapsing.

Paving stones have dropped around a drain hole cover on South Quay. Pic: LCPaving stones have dropped around a drain hole cover on South Quay. Pic: LC

Holes, subsidence and cracks have been spotted along a stretch of South Quay, prompting concerns the ground could be swallowed up by a sink hole.

The shifting pavement and cobbles were spotted by John Russell, who is among the volunteer team that maintains the Lydia Eva fishing boat, which is moored on the quayside.

On the night of the December 5 tidal surge he watched water pour like a “waterfall” down some of the holes and believes the well-trod thoroughfare could be at risk of a sink hole.

He said: “When we had the tidal surge we were on the boat in case there were any problems. As the water level rose we noticed water was coming up on the cobble stones on the quayside.

Cracks have appeared on South Quay. Pic: LCCracks have appeared on South Quay. Pic: LC

“And later when the water was pouring away, in those areas where they used to have the trees, water was running down there like a waterfall.”

Mr Russell addressed his concerns with the Environment Agency (EA) at a question and answer session at the town hall in the wake of the surge.

He was told there were “voids” under the quayside, which the borough council, EA and port authority were aware of, but said he was told “no-one’s got any money” to do anything about them.

“Prime Minister David Cameron is saying money is no object [for flood repairs and defences]. This is obviously preventative maintenance that needs to be done,” he added. “It’s right by the town hall and a major thoroughfare so something serious could happen.”

Gorleston High Street was closed for several days last summer after two sink holes inexplicably opened up in the carriageway, and last week a main road through Lowestoft had to be closed after a 15ft long sinkhole opened up on the A12.

A spokesman for Great Yarmouth Borough Council said the authority was aware of shifts around the paved area of South Quay, but it would be “impossible” to determine the cause and extent of the problem - or to take any action - until an investigation was carried out.

The spokesman said: “It is common for there to be some displacement of soil alongside a quay wall, due to fine material washing through the gaps of the steel piling of the wall as the metal ages.

“It is likely this process was exacerbated by December’s tidal surge, which saw ground water levels rise higher than normal and then fall sharply, carrying material downwards.”

They added: “The maintenance responsibility for various areas and aspects of South Quay is divided up between various different organisations. The council is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with the Environment Agency.”

The EA said it was also aware of the holes under the quayside but had “no concerns” for the flood defences, which it was responsible for, but it would continue to monitor them.

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