The Yorkshire floods: ‘All we can do is hope it doesn’t happen again’

Tadcaster was cut in two by the December floods.
Tadcaster was cut in two by the December floods.
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Devastated residents whose homes and businesses were destroyed by the Boxing Day floods are still feeling the effects six months on.

For them, it will come as scant reassurance to hear it could happen again, as a report claimed today that the Government is failing to protect communities at risk.

MPs have warned that the current ‘reactive’ approach to flooding isn’t enough. And for businesses still picking up the pieces after the Boxing Day floods, more needs to be done.

MPs call for end to reactive flood spending

“I don’t know a lot about the politics of it all,” said hairdresser Paula Marr of Tadcaster, whose business re-opened just a fortnight ago after nearly six months of work. “But I know we do need something in place.

“There have been days when I thought ‘I can’t carry on’. My team, and my family, kept me going. They’ve been fantastic. But something needs to be done.”

Mrs Marr’s business, Genesis Hair Design, was overwhelmed by four feet of floodwater in the Boxing Day deluge which swept away the town’s ancient bridge over the River Wharfe.

“It was unbelievable,” the 43-year-old said. “What could we do but watch it happen?

“It was just a wave. A river, running down the lane.

“Thankfully our clients followed us,” she added.

“We’ve had all the trauma and now we’re nearly there. We are slowly recovering. We’ve no choice but to carry on.”

Although the majority of the clean up effort is now complete, the floods will leave a lasting - and unwelcome - legacy.

“We can’t now get flood insurance,” said Mrs Marr. “My contents premium has doubled. I’ve worked here for 26 years, we’ve never had flooding before.

“Some people had to flee their homes. This is work for me - a new washing machine can be bought. But when it’s people’s homes, it’s harder to accept.

“A house behind me had just been sold when the floods hit, that fell through.

“A lot of people are still out of their homes and have been told they will be for 12 months.

“Locally, people have been rallying together. Everybody just put their wellies on and mucked in.

“All we can do now is hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Across the county, thousands of homes and businesses were devastated by the sudden deluge.

Many families, displaced by the floods, are still living in temporary accommodation - and have been told it could be a full year before they can go home.

York was among the worst hit, with some families having to be rescued by boat as river waters rose.

In Leeds, flooding on the scale experienced last winter had not been seen since 1866.

Research by Leeds University has found that 60 per cent of businesses are now unable to get insurance. Of the rest, 20 per cent could not afford the quote provided.

One local firm described how his flood excess had risen from £1,000 to £250,000. Another had been flooded seven times in 12 years.

Leeds City Council remains hopeful that the Government’s commitment to fund a new £40 million flood defence scheme would protect parts of the city in the future. But those worst hit by the floods aren’t so certain.

“These ‘think tanks’ and action groups take years to come into effect,” said Alex Koi, owner of Framegate off Kirkstall Road in Leeds, who had 3ft of water filling his stockroom - and who has lost around £10,000.

“I thought the council did a lot. But will they be spending enough money? Probably not.

“Is the Government really that bothered? Probably not. They are looking to cut costs now no matter what.”