14/02/2014 07:47 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mum Faces £10,000 Bill After Huge Sinkhole Appears In Back Garden


Mum Gretel Davidson thought her 12-year-old daughter was exaggerating when she rang her at work to say a huge sinkhole had appeared in her back garden and had almost swallowed her trampoline.

But when the 55-year-old returned home she was left dumbstruck by the size of it – it was deeper than a double-decker bus.

Unfortunately, that was only the first shock: the next came when she was told she faces a £10,000 bill to repair the chasm, because insurers said it hadn't damaged Gretel's home in Barnehurst, south east London. Although they have offered to put a fence around the hole (yeah, thanks!).

Gretel, a radiographer at Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford, Kent, told her local paper: "I just feel totally helpless. Mia rang me to say 'mum there is a massive hole in the garden'.

"I didn't really believe her and just thought she was going over the top. It is just unbelievable to think a hole that size could appear overnight and out of nowhere. I got in touch with the council but they said they couldn't help because it's my own property.

"I then got in touch with Halifax, my home insurance, and they said the hole is too far away from my home so they couldn't help either.

"I am just devastated. I spent the whole weekend crying and have been doing everything I can to try and sort it out."

Structural engineer Dan Baker, director of D J B Structural Engineers Ltd in Erith, looked at the hole and is drawing up an action plan.

He said: "It is a naturally occurring oblique swallow hole. It could cost upwards of £10,000 to fix. It is just one of those things you cannot predict - a total act of God.

"They are not common but they have been known to happen in this area in the past.

"Thankfully nobody was in the garden because someone could have died. We have got to make it safe as soon as possible."

A Bexley Council spokesman added: "Under such circumstances, the reinstatement work becomes the responsibility of the owner. Although the council is not liable for the reinstatement work, it is happy to provide advice.

"The owner was advised to contact her insurance company to see if her policy covers the incident. Our structural engineer also discussed the standard method used in the past to fill in these holes and provided the contact number of a reputable building contractor so that she could obtain a quotation."

A spokesman for Halifax Insurance said: "Following a thorough investigation our engineers are confident that this sinkhole has not caused any damage to the property and poses no threat to the structure of the home, therefore it is not covered by the insurance policy.

"As a gesture of goodwill however, we will offer to put a fence up around the sinkhole in the interest of health and safety."