To quote Richard Burton in the film ‘Where Eagles Dare’: “A hole, is a hole, is a hole as they say.”
But I suspect the residents of St Albans, Gosforth and Manchester may disagree with that assessment after sinkholes appeared in their neighbourhoods. Just imagine if these had occurred only a few meters away under a house rather than in the street.
With ground stability, or should that be instability, grabbing headlines in the last few months tmgroup asked solicitors, “After the recent sinkholes in St Albans and Gosforth which have been in the news have you made any provision to make ground (in)stability information available to your conveyancing customers?”
The findings were mixed as the table below shows but the key discovery is that only 1 in 3 conveyancers offer a search to cover ground stability:
One of the comments added to the survey was, “How can they know where these holes will appear, it can’t be much more than an educated guess?”
The answer is that the reports are surprisingly accurate and are based upon a lot of detailed information from a variety of sources, including the British Geological Survey, which is then interpreted and modelled by skilled geologists. The accuracy of the reports for all of the issues in the first paragraph is remarkably precise and would certainly have prompted any buyer to make further enquiries.
To give you some idea of the scale of the problem: around 20% of properties in Great Britain are considered to be at risk from ground stability issues. There are however a number of local authority areas which carry a much greater risk which includes most of the London Boroughs and many of the authorities in the South East. There are more than 172,000 recorded mine entries in the UK and potentially double the number of unrecorded mine entries.
The good news is that there are a range of solutions to help solve the issue of ground stability, all of which are readily available, inexpensive and quick to get hold of which includes:
This is a topic that won’t go away and it is also one which is very striking when it occurs but at least there are a range of services to assist the solicitor in helping to inform their clients as fully as possible in every case.