Beds, Herts & Bucks

St Albans sinkhole: Families finally return to homes

St Albans sinkhole Image copyright Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption The 33ft (10m) deep hole appeared in Fontmell Close, a former clay pit site, on 1 October last year

A family who were evacuated from their home when a sinkhole opened up outside have finally returned 14 months later.

Gemma Bagshaw, who was heavily pregnant at the time, and husband Ben have lived in a rented flat since last October.

They were among four families who had been unable to return to their homes after the the 33ft (10m) deep hole appeared in Fontmell Close, St Albans.

It will be the first time their son Finley, who was born a week after the sinkhole appeared, has been home.

The one-year-old looked on as St Albans mayor Frances Leonard cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the cul-de-sac.

His father Ben said it will be "lovely" to be home together for Christmas.

Image caption Gemma Bagshaw gave birth to son Finley just days after the sinkhole appeared
Image copyright Tom Shipp
Image caption Finley Bagshaw was evidently overcome with emotion as St Albans mayor Frances Leonard cut a ribbon to mark the road's reopening

Following the collapse in the early hours of 1 October, families in more than 50 homes were left without power, water or sanitation before temporary solutions were provided for the majority.

The Bagshaws were evacuated on the night and left the house, with heavily pregnant Mrs Bagshaw clutching her hospital bag.

Finley was born a week later and for the past year they have been renting a flat with the cost covered by their insurance.

"It was just really shocking, we were both on edge, my wife was almost ready to have her first baby and we'd suddenly just seen the road collapse around us," Mr Bagshaw said.

Image caption Residents said they were unaware how big the hole was until they saw it in the media

"The fact we've got [back] in December is going to be a real big win for us and it's going to be a lovely first Christmas at home for the new baby - it's going to be like a new house to us."

Fontmell Close is on the site of a former claypit, and mine workings have been blamed for the road's collapse.

The hole was filled with 48 lorry-loads of foamed concrete but before permanent repairs could be carried out, investigators had to ensure there was no further cause for concern.

Richard Knight from Hertsfordshire County Council said: "This probably is one of the safest roads in Hertfordshire now because we've done 40-odd bore holes to make sure what is under the road.

"We coordinated with all the utility companies to make sure everything was done properly but quickly."

Image caption The road finally reopening was a "joyful day", the mayor of St Albans said

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