Council to press ahead with Ripon Leisure Centre ‘hole’ investigation


May 28, 2021
Photo of new Ripon Swimming Pool under construction
Under construction, the new Ripon Swimming Pool

Harrogate Borough Council will press ahead with an investigation into a hole in the ground found next to Ripon Leisure Centre following assurances from senior officers over the work.

Senior councillors on the authority’s cabinet approved the measures at a meeting earlier this week, which is estimated to cost £110,000.

In a report before councillors, the authority said it was required to investigate the “void in the ground” in order to retain its business insurance on the building.

The city has a history of sinkholes caused by the soluble of nature gypsum, the rock that lies under much of the area.

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The hole was discovered next to the entrance of the existing leisure centre last year and has been filled with crushed gravel as a short-term solution.

Michael Constantine, head of operations at the council, told the cabinet meeting that he could reassure them that the council had employed expertise to handle the investigation.

He said:

“I’m very content to be able to give cabinet, council and any interested residents my assurance that as a project team we are employing sufficient qualified and experience geologists and technical engineers.

“The ground investigations works is proposed to take place and be delivered by the company who have undertaken the main series of investigations and reinforcement works for the main new pool facility.

“They have a very detailed knowledge of the site and they are pretty much the UK industry experts in stabilisation.”

Consultant engineers have told the council that further investigation will be required and remedial work if necessary.

In order to carry out the work, the council will have to self-insure as it says it will not be covered by any third-party insurance

The current insured value of the centre is £3,796,135 plus 10% contents, which the authority says would be lost should any damage be caused as a result of the work.

But, council officers have said this would be a “worst case scenario” and is considered to be an “unlikely event”.

Concerns over Ripon Pool void

Before the meeting on Wednesday, Dr Alan Thompson, is a chartered geologist and a director of Cuesta Consulting Limited, emailed members of the cabinet.

He called on them to take concerns, raised by Ripon-based chartered engineer Stanley Mackintosh, “very seriously”.

Mr Mackintosh has consistently raised concerns with HBC about the suitability of building a swimming pool on land with a history of ground instability issues.

However, his comments, made at the June 2019 planning meeting, where the £10 million plus pool scheme was approved, he feels were largely dismissed.

On Tuesday, Mr Mackintosh reiterated his concerns in an email sent to all cabinet members.

Both his and Dr Thompson’s emails, were sent prior to the HBC cabinet meeting, where senior councillors considered a report about a ‘hole’ discovered last year, next to the entrance of the existing Ripon Leisure Centre.

The refurbished leisure centre is physically attached to the new pool.

Ripon swimming pool opening sign

Ripon’s new swimming pool and refurbished leisure centre was originally due to open in Summer 2021, but signs there now say ‘Opening Autumn 2021.’

Dr Thompson, who is also the principal author of the definitive report into gypsum-related subsidence in the city, said in his email:

“Prior to your consideration of the proposals for further geological investigations and remediation in connection with the Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool, I am writing in support of the concerns expressed by Mr. Stanley Mackintosh.

“Mr. Mackintosh, amongst others, has kindly kept me informed of those developments and of his very serious concerns regarding the ongoing risk of subsidence, the inadequacy of recent ground investigations, and the prospects of instability being exacerbated by some of the techniques used.

“The purpose of this email is very simply to lend support to Mr. Mackintosh and to urge you to take his concerns very seriously.

In 1996, Dr Thompson and fellow experts produced a report, titled ‘Assessment of subsidence arising from gypsum dissolution with particular reference to Ripon, North Yorkshire’.

The report was commissioned by HBC and the former Department of the Environment, provided the basis for the land instability policies which the council has in place.


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