In Focus: Sinkholes and their impact on UK property

In Focus: Sinkholes and their impact on UK property

With changing rainfall and ground water conditions, the UK is witnessing a dramatic upturn in the number of cases of ground collapsing through natural causes known as sinkholes.

Sinkholes form when rainwater dissolves underground rocks, forming caves beneath thick soil. When the caves get large enough the soil collapses into the void, creating varying sizes and depths of sinkholes. The vulnerable rock types are chalk, limestone and also gypsum and salt, collectively known as ‘karst’. As rainwater falls it picks up carbon dioxide molecules from the atmosphere, turning it into a mild carbonic acid, when the rainwater hits rotting vegetation and the soil, it becomes even more acidic. The acid in the water then helps dissolve the karstic rock and a sinkhole is created.

Homes, gardens, roads, churches, lakes, farms and entire towns: are all public areas and all examples of areas where sinkholes have literally swallowed up the ground.

As documented on last week’s Channel 5 programme ‘Sinkhole: Buried Alive’ the risks sinkholes have to humans, property and infrastructure are real and devastating across the world, not least the UK– see

Just last week, we saw the huge 40ft sinkhole on Mancunian Way, which has blocked the main road into Manchester City causing havoc to local traffic, infrastructure and the local economy.

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, at least nine sinkholes appeared in England in February 2014 caused by heavy rain and flooding.

A recent case in Sidcup, Kent saw an eight foot hole open up underneath a recycling lorry, and at the start of 2014 we saw buyers pulling out of their transactions in Hemel Hempstead as a 20 foot deep cavity opened up underneath a development of new homes. In High Wycombe, a car was swallowed up by a 30 foot hole in a driveway, thought to be associated with old chalk mine workings.

Protecting property

Identifying ground stability issues is a vital part of any home buying process.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) operate a dissolutions (sinkholes) hazards team which investigates and databases these features for the whole of the UK. This information, as well as other key natural and man-made geo-hazards, is included in FCI Standard and Premium environmental reports, allowing home buyers to assess any potential ground stability issues, before purchasing the property.

Ground stability data is included in every Future Climate Info Premium and Standard environmental report for both residential and commercial properties. With FCI reports, conveyancers can satisfy both themselves and their clients whether any issues are associated with a property, safe in the knowledge that a Professional Opinion has been provided from a RICS qualified surveyor.

Further information

For full details on the FCI’s suite of Environmental Reports call 01279 798 111 or request a brochure.

FCI’s ‘In Focus’ series looks at current environmental risks to UK property.

Future Climate Info








Future Climate Info (FCI) provides a range of Environmental Search Reports and Consultancy services for Conveyancers and Solicitors acting in Commercial or Residential property transactions.

Our reports include a robust assessment of the following risks:

  • Environmental, including contaminated land, air quality and radon
  • Flood Risk
  • Ground Stability
  • Energy & Infrastructure
  • Planning

Since launching in 2014, FCI has delivered many firsts for the industry and prides itself on driving positive change. Through constant innovation, we strive to give conveyancers and their clients access to the most up-to-date, clear information to enable them to make informed purchase decisions. Among these step-changes include being the first to:

  • Provide shorter yet fully comprehensive reports - Clearer results, saving time and paper, with ‘Next Steps’ highlighted on the front page of the report.
  • Add air quality trend data - Reflecting the greatest health risk to urban homebuyers today.
  • Use Land Registry title extents - For accurate risk analysis and fewer ‘Further Actions’.
  • Use exception reporting - Focusing on the specific issues without the padding.
  • Launch Intelligent Data Capture – Identifying schemes that could be missed in traditional searches with FCICapture Technology and dynamic search buffers.
  • Include free remediation cover - With all passed residential searches and passed FCI Retail commercial property searches, for 6 years, up to £100,000.
  • Launch a dedicated report for small retail properties - Responding to specific needs with a great value risk assessment.
  • Raise the bar on historical land use mapping – A comprehensive view of a site at superior quality resolution (up to four times greater than the market standard), for a clearer interpretation of the risks.

Why Choose FCI?

Complete solutions and actionable advice: This is central to our ethos at FCI. From the full professional risk assessments across all sections of our reports, to the expert consultancy services provided by our dedicated Risk Team and the specialist next-step solutions delivered in collaboration with industry experts, we assess the risks in granular detail, providing expert advice and analysis to help fuel and empower decision making.

Consumer Protection: We protect the best interests of the homebuyer, helping you to support your client. FCI is the only search provider regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and are Executive Members of CoPSO, regulated under the Search Code by the Property Code Compliance Board (PCCB) and The Property Ombudsman.

Expert Risk Interpretation: Our in-house team holds a unique combination of environmental, property and surveying qualifications, including MRICS, CEnv and C.WEM Charterships, ensuring you can be confident in the advice we offer.

Make sure your clients get the benefit of our smarter, clearer, more concise reports and solutions. Speak to your reseller or visit for more information.

Contact: Future Climate Info
Tel: +44 (0) 1279 798 111
Email: [email protected]

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