Investigation into hole in the ground at Ripon Leisure Centre


Last updated May 20, 2021
Photo of new Ripon Swimming Pool under construction

Harrogate Borough Council is to investigate a hole in the ground that’s appeared at Ripon Leisure Centre.

In a report due before senior councillors next week, the authority said it is 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.

Construction firm Willmott Dixon was awarded a £10.2 million contract last year to build the pool and refurbish the leisure centre. It is due to be complete in November 2021.

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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.

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

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”.

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.

A report due before the council’s cabinet next week says:

“In order to retain the benefit of our existing insurance cover in the future, the council is obliged to mitigate known issues which could have an effect on this insurance cover. 

“The discovery of a void by the existing leisure centre is an issue which needs investigating and remedial works undertaken if necessary. 

“If the remedial works are not undertaken, the council’s insurers have stated that subsequent losses would not be insured. 

“However during the period of time these investigation and remediation works are ongoing they would not be covered by insurance therefore the council would have to self-insure for all non-negligent damage claims arising.”

It added that the engineers found that the hole had been there “for some time” and was not a result of the current work at the leisure centre site.

Councillors have been recommended to approve the investigation, which is estimated to cost £110,000, and any remedial works.

The Stray Ferret asked the borough council what caused the hole to appear, how wide it was and if any further voids or sinkholes had been found.

A council spokesman said:

“As a result of the reduced level dig – to prepare the new swimming pool site – for the casting of the reinforced concrete foundation slab, a void was discovered under an area of the existing leisure centre.

“This void, which is understood to have been present a number of years, will now be investigated further.

“While this will need to be resolved, we are fortunate that it was discovered as part of the multi-million pound Ripon Leisure Centre improvement project, and we can now carry out the necessary remedial works in the coming months.

“And once the whole project is complete, the leisure centre will provide the much-needed modern facilities that will encourage a healthier and more active lifestyle for our residents and something they can be proud of for years to come.”

Concerns over the Leisure Centre site

Cllr Andrew Williams, leader of Ripon City Council, said the authority had asked the borough council about concerns over the site before.

Sixteen months before Harrogate council approved the project in 2019 to build the new swimming pool, a sinkhole appeared in the leisure centre car park.

Cllr Williams said:

“If there is ongoing problem with the build site then it is in the public interest to know.”

Ground instability problems caused by the soluble nature of gypsum have been seen in many parts of Ripon.

The Stray Ferret reported in October 2020 about the evacuation of a residential block at Bedern Court, caused by subsidence in the area.

In February 2018, a sinkhole opened up on the car park of Ripon Leisure Centre, off Dallamires Lane.

In 2016, a dozen homes in Magdalens Road were evacuated after a 66-ft wide sinkhole opened up.

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