FOURTEEN homes have been damaged, with fears some may be demolished, following the collapse of old mine workings in Lambton.
The homes in McCubbin Way and Roberts Circuit, near the old Skyline drive-in movie site, have suffered progressive damage following what residents say sounded like an explosion on August 3.
Residents said the ground was continuing to shift and sink months after the initial collapse of part of the Old Lambton Colliery workings, which closed around 1910.
The area is undermined by first and second workings in the Borehole Seam, 25 to 35 metres below ground level.
The estate, Lambton Gardens, near the former Skyline Drive-In site, was the subject of special Mine Subsidence Board-approved building requirements when it started in the 1980s.
A spokeswoman for Mineral Resources Minister Chris Hartcher said last night the board was in the process of purchasing three homes in the ‘‘centre’’ of the collapse.
She said there had been no decision to demolish homes.
‘‘Final repairs will be assessed once mine subsidence has stabilised.’’
Resident Sonya Mancinelli, one of several residents who spoke to the Newcastle Herald yesterday, described the situation as ‘‘devastating’’.
Mrs Mancinelli’s four-bedroom, two-storey home has shifted, creating large cracks on the front and inside walls, near doorways and windows, inside the house and the garage.
The concrete pool has cracked and dropped. Doors in the house have been removed because they would no longer close, walls are bowed and the side fence is leaning at a precarious angle.
Mrs Mancinelli’s family built the house 14 years ago and recently completed a large renovation. She said that in the space of five weeks, an area spanning about 11 metres from the front window to the back door, had dropped about 20cm and continued to fall.
‘‘It’s just depressing when you are living in it and looking at it getting worse all the time.’’
‘‘We don’t want to move because we love the area, but I don’t want to live in the house any more after seeing all the structural damage. It’s getting worse all the time and it’s hard to feel safe,’’ she said.
Another resident, who declined to be named, said a board staff member told her the damage was ‘‘unprecedented’’ in Newcastle.
She said some residents were determined to stay and have their houses repaired, while others had elected to move.
‘‘It’s a tough situation to be faced with because the neighbourhood is lovely, but some of the houses are in a pretty bad way,’’ she said.
‘‘Some people have been told by tradespeople that their places will have to be pulled down, who knows what will happen in the future.’’
Board chief executive Greg Cole-Clark said the Lambton subsidence event was not the worst he had seen in Newcastle.
He said there were old mine workings ‘‘all over Newcastle’’, but there had been ‘‘very few, if any events in recent years’’.
‘‘There has been some movement in one area recently and the people who have spoken to me asked me not to make any comment about it,’’ he said.
‘‘The board is working with them closely.’’
Temporary works have been carried out on some homes to ensure they are safe.
‘‘There has been some ongoing movements, and we’re not talking about massive stuff, but that’s what we’re actually monitoring at the moment,’’ Mr Cole-Clark said. ‘‘We’re doing regular surveys to monitor the movement and see what happens. Subsidence does not continue forever, it will subside and then stop.’’
Some homes in the two streets have shown no signs of any movement, and plenty of others in the highly desirable neighbourhood remain unaffected.
Residents and tradesmen spoke out about the Lambton situation after reading Saturday’s Herald about a Gillieston Heights couple facing financial ruin after unknowingly building their dream home on an old mine.
Andrew and Kylie Neale have been unsuccessfully fighting the board for more than five years for compensation and earlier damagethis month lodged an appeal in the Land and Environment Court.
Mr Neale said he couldn’t believe that the board was purchasing homes and accepting claims in Lambton.
‘‘We have been fighting for so long and getting absolutely nowhere. Our place is worth virtually nothing due to the problems with the old mine workings and we did all the right things and ticked all the right boxes in terms of building here.’’
The minister’s spokeswoman said the board and an independent engineer agreed the damage to the Lambton homes was the result of mine subsidence.
‘‘The Neales’ property [in Gillieston Heights] was inspected by a qualified independent engineer who advised the damage had not resulted from mine subsidence,’’ she said.
A geotechnical engineer, who examined the property on behalf of the Neales, described it as an ‘‘open and shut case of mine subsidence’’.
The minister’s office has agreed to meet the Neales.