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Hot summer forecast compounds rain-induced subsidence problems

HOME OWNERS in flood-affected areas of southern England could face new misery from foundation damage if the expected warm summer follows last winter's record rainfall.

Drying of abnormally wet ground could spark a wave of subsidence problems as the ground shrinks. Heavy rains have already caused foundations problems, provided a surge of repair work for foundation contractors.

'In the past, wet weather followed by dry weather leads to clay shrinkage, 'said Keller Ground Engineering contracts manager Bernard Reed.

The bad weather has doubled Keller's subsidence repair workload, particularly in Kent, since the beginning of the year.

Old chalk mine shafts or 'dene holes'have caused particular difficulties.'The ground is still relatively wet, but if it dries over the summer and rain follows, then there will be more problems, 'said Reed.

Van Elle managing director Vic Handley agreed.

'Because of heavy sustained rain in some areas the ground is very wet. In hot weather the top few metres will dry first, leading to problems particularly with shallow foundations.'

His firm has held discussions with the Meteorological Office climate prediction unit, and said that a statistical 'seven year cycle' pointed to a warm summer following a wet winter this year.This type of weather was last seen in the mid-1990s.

A Met Office spokesman said the weather was expected to be drier and warmer than normal this summer in Wales, southern, central and eastern England.The north of England and southern Scotland will have a 'normal' summer with the rest of Scotland not so lucky.

With Kent and Sussex experiencing double the annual rainfall to March and expected to bask in warmer summer weather, foundation problems are expected to be most prevalent there. 'When you get sands, gravels and chalk combined with this weather pattern, that's where the worst problems are likely to be, 'said Reed.

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