Norwich street closed off after house collapses

A couple had to spend the Christmas period away from their Norwich home – because one of their neighbouring houses started to collapse.

Four terraced homes in Finkelgate had to be evacuated over Christmas after extensive cracks appeared in a house.

The subsidence also caused a depression and cracks in the road surface and pavements, and the area was cordoned off and Finkelgate closed to traffic.

Problems first arose on Christmas Eve evening, when Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was called to a house in Finkelgate, next to the entrance to Notre Dame High School, after the occupier reported cracks and problems closing a door.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said that the fire service shored up the building to reduce the risk of further movement and col-lapse and the occupier was advised to find alternative accommodation.

At lunchtime on Christmas Day the fire service responded to a further call and found that the condition of the property had deterio-rated, along with signs of subsidence in Finkelgate itself.

Norfolk police advised immediate neighbours including partners Helen Walker, 24, and Toby Hockley, 26, that they should evacuate.

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The couple rent their house from Miss Walker's parents, who own it, and they are now staying with them in Frettenham, near Norwich.

Miss Walker, who works at John Lewis in Norwich, said: 'On Christmas Eve we got a knock at our door about 7.30pm and firemen were telling us we should leave because the house at the end of our row was subsiding and they had already blocked the road off with equip-ment so that they could shore it up. We stayed the night with friends just around the corner.

'The next day (Christmas Day) we went back to the house but were later told by police that the subsidence was getting worse and the pavement and road had dipped considerably.

'They think it might be a ventilation shaft for an old chalk mine'

Mr Hockley said they returned to the house yesterday<26> but were told that it could be some time before they could go home.

'We will have to stay with Helen's parents,' Mr. Hockley, who works at the UEA, said.

Over the Christmas weekend National Grid for gas stood by at the scene and carried out monitoring in case of leaks caused by possible damage to a gas main.

Phil Berry, station manager at Sprowston Fire Station, said on Christmas Eve: 'He (the occupier of the first house) said he couldn't close his door and noticed the frame had dropped and cracks were appearing in his house.'

An investigation is now being carried out by highway and structural engineers.

It is the latest in a long line of subsidence problems in the city, which are believed to have been caused by Norwich's old chalk mines.