David Atkinson, who launched a four holiday cottage enterprise with his wife Rose in Reeth just eight weeks before they were inundated with up to three feet of mud and silt, has issued an appeal for local authority help saying numerous businesses in the fragile Dales economy have been left battling to survive.
Mr Atkinson said they had taken a “huge, calculated risk” last year by pumping their life savings into transforming the Swaledale properties into five-star accommodation, only taking out loans when they had 75 per cent occupancy for 2019.
However, when they came to renew the insurance policy for the properties they were told they would they would no longer be covered in the event of flooding as updated Environment Agency flood risk maps had put their cottages into the flood risk area.
He said: “Insurance for a commercial premises in a flood-risk area is nigh-on impossible to obtain. We took the risk as there were no other options available to us.”
Mr Atkinson said the floods in July had been “very traumatic” and his guests, unable to get out due to the sheer volume of water, had watched their cars getting washed away.
He said they had been fortunate to have help from an army of volunteers, but the cost of the clear-up had been colossal.
Mr Atkinson said: “We really do feel we are backed into a corner with the insurers and the government and not being able to obtain any flood cover due to the improved maps – this is where it has left us.
“We are now facing a huge cost to put back the riverbank, which was completely washed away, and wall back up in our car park.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that we would be so stretched financially. We had planned, planned and planned some more, but this kind of things just could not have been foreseen.
“We think the effect of the floods has cost us around £50,000 at least. This on top of our already stretched budget earlier this year is having a terrible effect on us as a family. What has happened is not our fault but has left us with absolutely nothing.”
“Overdrafts and credit cards are the only thing keeping us afloat and covering our costs. The reality of standing all of these costs is that we are now struggling to afford the basics to feed and clothe our children.”
He said the floods would affect day to day lives for years to come as they had been plunged into significant debt, but that was symptomatic of what other businesses in the area were going through.
Mr Atkinson said while his local councillor Richard Good had been “a shining light through these dark times”, it appeared that Richmondshire District Council didn’t think businesses needed financial assistance, but that it was an “absolutely necessity”.
He said there had been no follow-up by the authority to the impact assessments it carried out in the days after the disaster.
Mr Atkinson said: “What we are finding is local businesses are not eligible for financial recourse, where farmers and highways have been granted millions by the government.
“We believe that local businesses of our type are the beating heart of the Dales, bringing millions into our local economy on a yearly basis.”