Ripon's giant sinkholes present pool liability headache

The sinkhole at a home on Magdalen's Road in Ripon in 2016. Picture: Ben Bramley
The sinkhole at a home on Magdalen's Road in Ripon in 2016. Picture: Ben Bramley

Ripon's history of giant sinkholes means Harrogate Borough Council will likely have to source its own insurance for the construction of the town's new pool.

The architectural firm designing Ripon's new six-lane pool, Pick Everard, only has professional liability insurance for sinkholes up to five metres in diameter - which is likely to be matched by construction company Willmott Dixon.

A report to cabinet presented on January 2 stated that liability for any sinkholes larger than five metres would now be transferred to the council, given the Ripon area's extensive history of ground collapses.
The report goes on to state that having a commissioning client insuring work is "relatively common", although it goes on to say that the exact costs of insuring the pool during construction and post-construction are yet to be explored.

The project is currently up to stage four of design - in which the detailed design and costs of the project will be finalised, including the cost to council of any sinkhole insurance required.

According to the council, geotechnical investigations so far indicate that the proposed site for the new pool, car park and current Leisure Centre is 'buildable', subject to detailed foundation designs.

Ripon's well-documented history of sinkholes has previously been identified by the British Geological Survey (BGS) as a symptom of Permian gypsum deposits underneath the town.

A Ripon Sainsbury's supermarket had to be evacuated when a hole suddenly opened up near it in August 2018, while in 2016 seven homes on Magdalen Road had to be evacuated after a gaping 15m sinkhole appeared nearby.

The new pool, to be built next to the current Ripon Leisure Centre, had been at the centre of a furious to-and-fro between community groups and Harrogate Borough Council for much of 2018.

The most notable of these community groups, Ripon Pool Action Group, originally rejected the proposed six-lane pool on the basis that it didn’t have a learner pool attached.

The group eventually accepted the six-lane proposal following concerns that the whole project may be scrapped due to continued objections over its design.

The new pool will include six 25-metre long lanes, new saunas, as well as a new football pitch adjacent to it.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter