Yorkshire: Millions of pounds go down drain in washout summer

DELUGED: Hebden Bridge has been hit by flooding three times 'in three months.

YORKSHIRE is left counting the multi-million pound cost of the washout summer as August draws to a close after a rain-soaked Bank Holiday weekend.

Agriculture, retail, tourism and sport have all taken a hit from the heavy downpours that have lashed down since June.

Flooding, which hit Hebden Bridge and Todmorden for the third time in as many months on Saturday, has cost the Environment Agency around £1.4m so far this year, according to regional flood manager Phil Younge.

“This includes such things as warning the public, supporting communities recovering from floods, repairs to flood defences, checking and maintaining flood warning systems,” he said.

The cancelled Great Yorkshire Show cost £4.5m, of which £2m was lost to organisers and £2.5m to the region’s rural economy.

Although trade stall holders were refunded some £700,000, Yorkshire exhibitors also lost out at dozens of other axed shows across the county and beyond.

The Country Land and Business Association estimates the total cost of cancellations to the rural economy at more than £240m – including £500,000 lost from Bingley, Sykehouse and North Yorkshire County Shows.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it was too soon to calculate the financial blow to Yorkshire’s farmers from the summer’s low harvest yield.

Consumers have also been hit as the price of British goods has risen and others have been replaced by more expensive foreign imports.

Yorkshire retailers suffered a 0.9 per cent year-on-year drop in footfall, figures from the British Retail Consortium show.

High street shops are likely to have been dealt an even bigger blow over the period from May to July as customers opted to take cover in shopping centres.

Across the UK, where total footfall fell by 2.3 per cent, the high street was hit by 5.5 per cent less footfall while shopping centres saw only a 0.4 per cent drop.

Diane Wehrle of Springboard, which collected the data, said: “The wet weather was undoubtedly a key factor as consumers preferred covered retail areas to escape the wettest three months on record.”

High street retailers in Hebden Bridge were undoubtedly the worst hit by the weather, with flooding forcing a number to close, some for good.

While three have now reopened and a further three are expected to follow in the coming weeks, the town is now trying to overcome the knock-on effect on footfall, which is slowing recovery for reopened businesses and also hitting those that never flooded.

Alison Pearson, who managed to reopen her shop, The Deli, within eight weeks of losing £15,000 worth of equipment and stock in June, said custom had begun to pick up but was not yet back to normal.

“A lot of the really good shops were totally unaffected,” she said.

“They sell wonderful things and it is that quirkiness of Hebden Bridge that people are missing out on if they think we’re closed.”

Cancelled festivals such as M Fest at Harewood House and the Bradford Mela are expected to have racked up huge losses while Sheffield’s axed Cliffhanger event cost the council £35,000.

The weather also put a dampener on the region’s sporting calendar, with Yorkshire County Cricket Club losing more playing time in the County Championship to rain than any other county.

Finance director Charles Hartwell estimated crowds were down around 20 per cent so far this season but was not yet able to calculate the financial loss.

“Attendances were certainly down on last year,” he said.

“It has been a very frustrating season for us.”

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