Months after Calderdale floods, businesses remain shut

Flashback to July, as flash floods hit Hebden Bridge less than two weeks after previous floods.
Flashback to July, as flash floods hit Hebden Bridge less than two weeks after previous floods.
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BUSINESSES in a Yorkshire valley are struggling to survive with more than a fifth still closed four months after they were devastated by flash flooding.

Over 250 businesses in the Calder valley around Hebden Bridge were affected by flooding in June and July which caused millions of pounds of damage.

Now a survey of businesses has revealed that 22 per cent of those questioned remain closed.

Calderdale Council officers, who carried out the survey, say that pockets of flood-affected areas have been “very badly hit or are struggling to find sufficient footfall to sustain trade”.

The areas hardest hit include parts of Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden.

A council report said: “These areas seem to be suffering from complex multiple problems –such as, for example, absentee or remote landlords, increased insurance premiums, narrow footpaths – reducing footfall and passing trade.

“These areas do include some units that have suffered from long-term problems that pre-date the flooding.”

The council’s cabinet committee will be asked next week whether struggling businesses should be offered extra help. The council has already given grants from £200 to £5,000 to about 150 businesses.

The 27 businesses reported to be closed – from a survey of 123 – are not named in the report.

Retailers in Hebden Bridge claimed the problems caused by the summer floods are still being felt. Traders say that visitors and till takings are still down on normal levels.

Duncan McKie, who runs kitchenware shop Pot Stop and is the chairman of the town’s business association, escaped the flooding but maintained everyone continues to feel the knock-on effects.

He said: “It is not as bad as some people have made out but it has affected the whole town, particularly from a footfall point of view.”

Businesses not directly affected by flood water had not received help, although their takings had been badly hit, he added.

His own takings are down about 20 per cent but business is now “just starting to pick up”.

Elsewhere in the town, the mood is more upbeat.

A spokesman for Hebden Royd Town Council, town clerk Jason Boom, said the council-run Picture House cinema had enjoyed a busy six months and was now in profit.

Like many businesses in the Calder Valley, the Picture House has been renovated with flood insurance money.

This injection of cash has given some businesses a new lease of life, according to Mr Boom.

But he said “negative spin” – including TV news footage of the town – was not helping matters as it deterred people from visiting the area.

“We get people still ringing up (the Picture House) to ask if we are open. We only shut for two days for the two floods.”

The revelations that some businesses remain closed and others are struggling follows claims that insurance companies are refusing to offer flood cover to some companies in the Calder valley.

In September insurers were accused by a local broker of “ducking and diving” in a bid to get out of paying for flood repairs.

In some cases, businesses and householders looking to renew insurance policies are being told that flood cover will no longer be part of the policy. Others have seen premiums double and at least one firm was quoted a £5,000 excess.

The floods have also left Calderdale Council with a major financial headache. The council is being forced to dip into its modest reserves to find £2.6m to deal with the aftermath of the flooding. The authority’s leaders expect to get less than £100,000 from the Government.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has stepped up a national flood awareness campaign as large parts of England, including areas of East Anglia, remained on flood alert after torrential rain, snow and blizzards swept into the UK over the weekend.

There are seven flood warnings in place in areas of the South West, East Anglia and the Midlands, while 54 flood alerts are in place for areas across the country where the threat is less serious.

The rest of the week should be drier and milder, but there could be light and patchy rain today.