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BREAKING: Sink hole appears near housing estate in Maidstone - exclusive

Sunday 27th September 2020

A LARGE sinkhole has appeared at a reservoir just yards from new housing in Barming.

Residents in the Oakapple housing development off Hermitage Lane were alerted last night that a landslip had occurred at a drinking water storage tank owned by South East Water.

Specialists are currently trying to discover if there any more voids in the area.

Nearby Tonbridge Road was shut for months in 2018 when a large sinkhole suddenly appeared in the road.

Social media speculation that homes were evacuated do not appear to be true.

Police hand delivered a letter from South East Water, Maidstone Borough Council, Tonbridge and Malling council, Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue Service.

The letter reads: "In the early hours of Friday morning we were alerted to a land slip and the appearance of a sinkhole at the site of our drinking water storage tanks in Hermitage Lane Maidstone.

"This is a complex and fast moving situation and we are working with specialist contractors to make sure the site (is) safe and understand what happened.

"At the earliest and safest opportunity we will be carrying out a ground survey to determine whether any further sinkholes may be present."

Conservative borough councillor Jonathan Purle said: "Are we seeing the consequences of allowing so much housing to be crammed into the north west of Maidstone? It must be very worrying for the people who have invested in homes there."

A paragraph at the end of the letter from the Kent Resilience Forum said it was uncertain yet whether there is risk to nearby properties.

It states: "South East Water informs is that there is sinkhole approximately 30 metres from the boundary of the property that adjoins their site."

MP Tracey Crouch said: "I'm aware of a massive problem at the Hermitage Lane reservoir which South East Water and others are working to resolve ASAP.

"I have asked for a map of properties likely to be affected but haven't yet received it, but it is mainly in Maidstone so most likely to be parts of Aylesford, Ditton and possibly Larkfield in my constituency. You may experience discolouration and low water pressure until resolved."

Residents are advised to dial 999 if they experience structural changes to their homes.

One resident denied social media speculation people had been evacuated.

The St Lawrence Drive resident said: "We got the letter but there have been no evacuations as far as I am aware."

Another added: "Is it house-building or is it South East Water's many, many leaking pipes wearing away the voids deep underground?"

A KFRS dog search unit van was parked onsite this morning while workers in hard hats and orange boiler suits assessed the area.

A public footpath near the site has been taped off from the public although locals appear to be ignoring it and using it anyway.