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Egremont mine collapse residents don’t know when they can return home

Uncertainty surrounds the immediate future for families left homeless after a mineshaft collapsed in Egremont.

Egremont collapse photo
The collapsed mine shaft. Photo: Ryan Rickerby

Engineers spent yesterday assessing the scene at Howbank Road, on the Smithfield estate, after a gaping hole opened up on Wednesday.

Residents in the eight properties closest to the shaft – which could be up to 200ft deep – will not be allowed to return until expert engineers have assessed the area and Copeland Council deem it safe.

Paul Walker, chief executive of Copeland Council, said the area had been fenced off and it was “vital” people stay away from the area.

“We do need to emphasise that it is very dangerous for anyone to access the site at the current time until we have stabilised the mine shaft,” he said. “Our advice is to stay well away.

“Our priority is to make sure the residents that have had to leave their properties are well looked after and that we secure the site so that we can allow them to return home.

“We will not know exactly how long this will take until we have received more detailed findings from the investigations that are currently taking place.”

Kathryn Trainer, 33, who lives next door to one of the affected houses, said: “I suppose it’s one of those things that can happen when you build houses on a mine shaft. It’s awful. I hope they get into their houses before Christmas. One of them has a really young son. The shock has been massive.”

Kerry King, 38, who lives opposite, said: “The houses further up have been demolished due to a mine shaft.

“It’s worrying. You don’t know if you are going to open your back or your front door and find a hole.

“I know all of the neighbours who have been affected and a couple of them have young families.

“It’s going to be devastating for those affected especially with Christmas around the corner.”

Mrs King was keen to praise Home Group, which owns some of the affected properties.

Support has been offered to all those affected by both Home Group and Copeland Council. Andrea Thorn, Home Group’s head of customer service said the company was providing hotel accommodation for two families, while two others have chosen to stay with relatives.

“We’ll continue to support our customers and we’re liaising with the council on when they will be able to return,” she added.

Work is expected to begin today and continue over the weekend, to create a road into the back of the site. Once this is created, vehicles can begin to stabilise the hole.

The Egremont area is heavily populated with mineshafts, and Wednesday's episode is the latest in a series that have caused problems for residents over recent years. Only four years ago, another mineshaft further along Howbank Road was identified, only yards from the newly opened one. Three homes were evacuated as a result and although the shaft has never opened up, the properties have recently been demolished and the area fenced off.

In 2005, nine homes were evacuated and later demolished after a large mineshaft opened up in a resident's back garden on Greenmoor Road, also on the Smithfield estate.

Have your say

The council knows the risks, we all have to pay for surveys when we buy a house as part of the legal proceedings. But I think people would panic if it was made public exactly where the mines were and that would do more harm.

Posted by DaveW on 22 November 2012 at 09:20

Home Group has moved a number of families from properties closest to the collapsed mineshaft. This had been done on the recommendation of Copeland Council.

We offer affected families the choice of two options, either hotel accommodation or staying with family or friends.

For those in hotels we pay for all their accommodation and provide an allowance of £10 per person per day for subsistence.

For those who choose to stay with family we provide £300 per month to cover the cost of board and lodgings.

These allowances will normally exceed the value of any rent the customer continues to pay.

We firmly believe no customer should be financially disadvantaged by circumstances which are beyond their control.

Any Home Group customer affected by the mineshaft collapse requiring further assistance should call should call 0345 141 4663

Posted by Andrea Thorn, Home Group's head of customer service on 19 November 2012 at 10:40

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