Leeds family trapped in a home that they can’t sell - because it’s sliding down an embankment

The home on top of the embankment and, below, Markku and Clare Blackburn, with children Oskar, four, and Ralf, two.
The home on top of the embankment and, below, Markku and Clare Blackburn, with children Oskar, four, and Ralf, two.
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A young family say they are trapped in a house that is slowly falling down a hill.

The Blackburns’ nine-year-old home, which is at the top of a steep embankment, is slipping because of problems with the foundations.

More than £60,000 of work has already been carried out to anchor the detached house, on Crow Nest Mews in Beeston, Leeds, to the rock underneath.

But that failed to stop its “lateral movement” – prompting plans for a further £80,000 of reinforcements.

Dad-of-two Markku Blackburn fears the problems have made the house unsellable.

He said: “The house is slowly falling down. It’s on a steep embankment, there’s only one way it’s going to go.

“We can’t move, we can’t sell the house. We’re trapped here.”

Mr Blackburn, 36, and wife Clare, 35, paid £185,000 for the four-bedroom house in 2003.

Problems started two years later when the path at the side of the house started to lean.

Several repairs were carried out but then the path fell away, leaving a gap of a few inches at the side of the house. Cracks then formed in the brickwork.

In 2009, structural engineers appointed by insurers Zurich discovered landslip was causing the problems.

The following year, anchors were installed to pin the house to the rock underneath.

But they failed to resolve the issue. In a letter to Mr Blackburn last year, Zurich said: “Unfortunately these have not prevented the lateral movement which we now know has occurred...we now consider that, as the property is located on a sloping site and is also located at the top of steep embankment, there is an element of lateral movement.”

It is thought the problems are partly due to the clay under the property shrinking because of a lack of moisture.

The family have now reluctantly agreed to Zurich’s proposal for a further £80,000 scheme to install new foundations on one side of the house – and have moved to a rented property in Gildersome for six months while the work is carried out.

But Mr Blackburn, who runs a shop at St James’s Hospital, is concerned the new scheme will not work either.

He said: “They have already had one attempt to fix the property and it’s failed. Every time they have to do more work it devalues the property.

“It’s an awful situation to be in – you don’t expect it when you buy a new-build.

“I have got two young children, it has stopped all our plans.

“We had a plan to be here for five years and then move but we’re stuck here for god knows how long. Would you buy this house? It’s just a stress, an ongoing battle.

“Every day I have to deal with it on top of my business, but I have to get it right for my family.”

A Zurich spokesman said: “We understand how unsettling it must have been for Mr Blackburn to have first discovered these problems with his property.

“We are doing all we can to resolve this situation as swiftly as possible.

“Given the complexities of land movement there can be any number of underlying causes in these cases.

“We are working with specialist geo-technical experts who have undertaken thorough investigations to help identify the problem and the appropriate course of action.”

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