‘This is a real heartbreaker’ – Hitchin traders react to ‘sinkhole’ depression which has closed Brand Street

PUBLISHED: 12:09 07 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:29 08 January 2016

The sinkhole in Brand Street, Hitchin, being photographed by a passer-by.

The sinkhole in Brand Street, Hitchin, being photographed by a passer-by.

Archant

The appearance of a small ‘sinkhole’ depression on Hitchin’s Brand Street on Sunday has led to travel confusion, with the road still shut for safety reasons.

Police at the scene on Brand Street, Hitchin, due to a sinkhole.Police at the scene on Brand Street, Hitchin, due to a sinkhole.

The depression in the road between NatWest and Lloyds banks has been fenced off, and the street closed to motorists between Paynes Park and the High Street.

Herts County Council’s website indicates that roadworks will continue until January 18, but a spokesman told the Comet that this was not necessarily the case.

“We’ve put that date so we don’t have to keep renewing everything,” he said. “We have contractors out there and we’re hoping that it’ll be done by the weekend.”

The emergency road closure has forced changes to Stagecoach’s 71 and 72 routes, which are now starting and terminating on Hermitage Road.

The depression sinkhole in the road on Brand Street.The depression sinkhole in the road on Brand Street.

The lack of access has also affected trading in the street. Kam Rad of the Avocado Sandwich Bar said the closure had cost his shop about a quarter of its business.

“We usually get a lot of traders, but not this week,” he said. “Early January’s very quiet anyway, so this is a real heartbreaker.

“I saw it on Saturday – why didn’t they start on Monday? This is so important for the town. They have been working but I’d be surprised if they finished by the weekend.”

Janice Mitchell, manager of Professional Dry Cleaning, said on Wednesday: “Today has been quite bad.

Historian Derek Wheeler looking into the sinkhole on Brand Street in Hitchin.Historian Derek Wheeler looking into the sinkhole on Brand Street in Hitchin.

“Our driver hasn’t been able to get down in the van, he had to park in the Market Square – the closest he could get – and then walk down with all the clothes in the bags.

“Obviously that’s not ideal with people’s clothes in there that have just been cleaned!

“Saturday is our busiest day so if it is not open again it would certainly have an impact.”

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins said that if the road has not reopened, the High Street may not close to motorists this Saturday.

“We’ll have to play it by ear,” he said. “They’re working on it at the moment, so I’m hopeful it may have reopened.”

Hitchin historian Derek Wheeler said the site is on a watercourse.

“When they were extending NatWest, I remember they had pumps here because it was flooded,” he said.

“The cellar underneath the town hall always suffers from damp, and we’ve had a lot of water this month.”

Derek also said that the site matched that where a horse, complete with harness, was supposedly found in a hole during the construction of what is now Lloyds in the 1930s.

For live updates on roadworks, see hertfordshire.roadworks.org.

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