Otford Chalk Pit closes following new safety concerns | Sevenoaks District Council

Otford Chalk Pit closes following new safety concerns

Published: Wednesday, 12th June 2024

Sevenoaks District Council has closed the former chalk pit in Otford after a new survey indicated there are large underground cavities throughout the site posing a danger to life.

In recent years, sink holes have appeared and in September 2023, the site was partially closed as a safety precaution.

The Council brought in independent surveyors to investigate the causes of the subsidence using ground-penetrating radar.

Reporting back to the Council, the surveyors found widespread evidence of potentially large underground cavities, which may be filled with water. Many of the cavities are dangerously close to the surface.

The Council is carrying out further investigations and surveys before it decides on the next steps, but the entire site, including the entrance in Pilgrims Way East, is now closed until further notice.

Members of the public should not enter the site for their own safety.

As a precautionary measure, a survey of the area around the Scout hut is also being undertaken and more will be known shortly.

The public right of way between Tudor Drive and Station Road, around the edge of the Chalk Pit, currently remains open.

Cllr Irene Roy, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Cleaner and Greener, says: “As members of the community will understand, public safety is our number one priority, and the decision to close much of the area last year was not taken lightly.

“The historic site has had a great deal of subsidence over the years, but we now have evidence of deep underground voids, which could be filled with water. Many are near the surface and could give way at any time, putting life in danger.

“Our focus is to carry out further investigations as soon as possible and to consider the future of this much cherished area by the local community.

“As previously confirmed, I would like to reassure residents that there are no plans to develop the Chalk Pit, which remains a designated open green space in the District Council’s 2040 Local Plan.

“As soon as we have an update, we will let our communities know. But in the meantime, for everyone’s safety, I must urge the public to stay away from the site.”

Further information, including the survey reports, can be viewed at www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/otfordchalkpit.

Notes to editors

The former Chalk Pit has an extensive industrial history having been mined for chalk during the Victorian period then used as a landfill site.

For many years, the site has been used as a public open space and was managed by Otford Parish Council until 2021. The Parish Council ended its long-term lease due to the mounting health and safety and maintenance costs from both sink holes and Ash Dieback. Sevenoaks District Council took back responsibility for the site.

There are believed to be natural underground streams running throughout the site, which can cause subsidence.

In recent years, sink holes appeared, which were subsequently filled in. As more sink holes appeared, Sevenoaks District Council partially closed the site in September 2023 while it investigated the problems.

Now Sevenoaks District Council has evidence of underground cavities, it will carry out further investigations, including geotechnical and hydrology surveys. The surveys will provide recommendations and advice on the Council’s next steps. In the meantime, the site remains closed to protect the safety of the public.

There are no plans to develop the former chalk pit as the site is allocated as an open space in the current and new Local Plan (Plan 2040).