Repairs to Sheringham sinkhole on hold while engineers carry out surveys
PUBLISHED: 12:37 05 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:45 05 June 2019
Sheringham traders are still waiting for news on plans to repair a sinkhole in the high street, nearly two weeks after the void opened up in the road during the busy half term holiday.
While some shop owners are concerned about the impact of road closures on their businesses, the positive attitude of local people to the shock incident has been "brilliant", according to the town's deputy mayor Liz Withington.
Cafe owners have taken advantage of a traffic-free High Street to place tables and chairs outside, engineers have set up a makeshift 'sinkhole viewing point' and 'I've seen the Sheringham sinkhole' postcards have been snapped up by visitors to a local charity shop.
"Everybody has responded really well," Mrs Withington said. "Community groups such as the carnival committee have been incredibly supportive, North Norfolk District Council have been out to speak to businesses and everybody has really pulled together."
Anglian Water engineers are working on assessing the sinkhole and, until an engineering design plan is completed, it is not known how soon the road will reopen.
"Unfortunately, there is still one business that is closed, but we are hoping we will soon have a clearer idea of how long the work will take," Mrs Withington said.
Julie Spooner, who is manager of the RSPCA shop in High Street, designed and printed a stack of sinkhole postcards, which she gave to shop visitors in return for a donation.
She said the hole, which is surrounded by barriers stretching the length of the main shopping area of High Street, had become a talking point among her customers, with some people travelling to Sheringham just to see it.
"People seemed to be really interested and we used a whole pack of card and raised about £30 for the RSPCA," she explained.
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"I don't think it has affected us, but some of the traders around the hole are struggling as I think some people don't realise you can still walk down High Street."
The owner of the All Natural Company, which is just a few feet from the sinkhole, said signage was "awful" and gave the impression that High Street was closed.
She was also concerned about cracks which have appeared in the front of Crofters Restaurant next door, which has been unable to reopen due to safety issues.
"The pavement is falling apart and the road continues to sink," she said. "Our building is affected, our business is affected and it affects the whole of this end of the town.
"Anglian Water told us everything was fine, but the fact is we are not getting any help, they are in denial and our livelihoods and our buildings are falling into the ground."
However, Martyn Jackson, who owns Ellie's ice cream shop, just beyond the sinkhole barrier, felt the incident had been dealt with efficiently.
"I think it's all been handled very well, and as far as effect on trade is concerned, we haven't been affected and the general feedback from customers is that it's nice to see the road with no traffic."
An Anglian Water spokesperson said engineers were carrying out intensive surveys of the sinkhole and surrounding area, including nearby premises, but, because the sinkhole was quite large and changed shaped very quickly after opening up, this was taking longer than expected.
"The problem is that it is not just the size of the sinkhole, the main issue is the void underneath, and that is why we are taking all the time we need to make sure the surrounding area is secure before we can go in and do repairs underground," she added.
"We will obviously keep everyone affected up to date as and when we have information, and we are doing all that we can to make sure that the high street is open as usual for people to come and visit the sights of Sheringham."
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