Beds, Herts & Bucks

Welwyn Hatfield Council gets £2m to fix chalk mines

Residents living with the risk of old chalk mines being found under their homes have expressed delight that the problem could soon be solved.

Properties in Chantry Lane in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, could be at risk from the mines, thought to be in nearby woods.

Now, the government has given Welwyn Hatfield Council nearly £2m for investigation and repair.

A council spokeperson said that funding was "a welcome relief" for residents.

Bob Jewell, the council's director of finance and operations, said: "It means that, at last, we can remove the blight from the properties involved and can allow people to move forward."

John Hawkins, a resident for 18 years, said he was "absolutely delighted".

"Once the question mark overhanging these properties is removed we can all relax," he said.

"A lot of people round here are looking upon their properties as a fund of money to finance their care in later life, so this will be wonderful, welcome news and well done to the council for raising the money."

Chalk mining was carried out in Hertfordshire from the 17th Century.

It is thought that miners were attracted to the Hatfield area in the 19th and early 20th Centuries because the chalk lies approximately 5-10m below the surface.

The rock was used for building and agricultural purposes but mining ceased around 1920, with most mines abandoned, and very few records left.

Further investigation

From 2003-08, £4m was spent repairing mines under Briars Lane in the town and after the mines were discovered there, Welwyn Hatfield Council agreed to assess the risks to other areas.

The investigations, concluded in 2010, found that two sites, both in Chantry Lane, showed a "high likelihood" of chalk mining.

The council made a bid for the funding from the HCA in March 2011, which awarded just over £1.9m through its Land Stabilisation Programme.

Further investigation will now take place to find out exactly what work is required and it is expected that all the works will be completed by the end of April 2014.

Mr Jewell revealed that it was "unlikely but not certain" that residents would need to move out of their homes.

"Affected residents in the area have been kept informed throughout the investigation process and this will continue as further ground surveys and works are carried out," he said.

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