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After three years and £462k, Holbeach sink hole still not fixed

Anglian Water and Lincolnshire County Council have spent nearly half a million pounds attempting to repair a sinkhole which appeared three years ago on Boston Road South in Holbeach.

A total of £462,296 was spent on various investigations and works to fix the persistent sinkhole, according to Freedom of Information data, of which £117,958 came from Lincolnshire County Council, and the rest from Anglian Water.

Issues first began in 2019, but were further up the road. Since then they have moved down.

Repairs continue in Boston Road South Holbeach (58539019)
Repairs continue in Boston Road South Holbeach (58539019)

Emails reveal what actually happened in June

Communication between the two received as part of the Freedom Of Information request also reveals the cause is a problem with pipework, which extended works in June this year.

The anonymised emails also show fractures between the two over the works, lacking explanations and who is to blame.

In June, Anglian Water were working to reline the sewers following investigations in the area, however, it was subsequently reported the works had been delayed. Reporters were told the pipes had sheared.

On June 17 Anglian Water said there had been “no issues” with the pipe itself, but added that relining was a “complicated process”.

Statements also noted that the ground conditions were a “a unique mix of sand and substrates which can cause land to move”.

However, an engineer's email from Claret Civil Engineering sent days before the press statement described the incident as a “disaster”.

Sent “with a heavy heart” on June 15, it described how a sudden rush of hot water saw one of the circulation hoses “blown away from its connecting coupler”.

“The coupling would have been under nearly 1.5bar of pressure when it came apart and it would have been this reaction that caused it to shoot itself through the trunk,” said the email.

It further adds that there was “very little we could do” as they tried to assess the damage created by a vacuum and how attempts to remove the hose saw it snap.

The issue saw the sewer become blocked.

“We do feel, because the curing/cooling down process was incomplete, that the liner has come in at all its weakest points holding any significant pressure, which are potentially the 13 connections on liner, which are also blocked off.

They added that it was a “very unfortunate and isolated incident… completely out of our control” but said staff were “exemplary in their efforts to try and resolve this situation”.

Lincolnshire County Council shortly after announced they hoped to carry out three weeks worth of repairs to reopen the road but have been delayed several times by Anglian Water not being finished.

Anglian Water confirmed on Monday that they hoped to complete their works by Friday this week.

Frustration between authorities as press put the pressure on

Further emails seem to show frustration from LCC as further delays to the work also saw the county council unable to move in to rebuild the work.

It includes discussion over how to respond to press queries, with one email on June 17 saying: “I can’t reconcile what we’ve seen and been told on site, as well as the update attached, with the messaging [censored] is putting out.

“The press are all over us and will start to think we’re playing them for fools.

“Honestly, nobody from LCC has said anything to them about your asset, I don’t know if it’s a contractor or a member of the public but someone on site has told a journalist there are not one but two shears in the pipe now but [censored] is saying the asset is in good condition.

“We can’t even explain the delay in starting the surfacing works whilst there’s not even an acknowledgement of the lining issues attached.”

In a further email on the same date, an Anglian Water employee tells his colleagues: “This issue is not caused by an AW asset, but LCC has lost trust in us because of a number of factors (he said/she said by customers on site).

“It has come to the point that I think we need to virtually meet with LCC and give them some reassurance.

Several days later, following a “meeting this morning” a further email from Anglian Water agrees that if either organisation is asked about the root cause of the sinkhole “we will say that it was caused by a combination of factors, and not attribute blame to any specific activity or asset.”

Holbeach Parish Council have called a public meeting and invited LCC and Anglian Water to attend and explain what’s gone wrong with the road.

It will take place on Tuesday, August 16, at 6.30pm at the Holbeach Methodist Church

The authority has also submitted its own FOI to the authorities.

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