Last year heavy rain across northern England and Wales over Christmas caused thousands of homes and businesses to flood. Rivers burst their banks and residents were evacuated.
At the time we reported on small firms whose businesses had been flooded, from a restaurant in York that had only been open 18 months, to a gym in Yorkshire that suffered terrible damage. A year on, we catch up with the same businesses to see how they are faring.
‘We couldn’t get cover for flooding this year’
Jayne Shepherd co-owns Winner Winner restaurant in Kings Staith, York, with her son Michael. The restaurant, which is next to the River Ouse, had been open for 18 months when it was completely flooded on Boxing Day
We had been hit by flooding multiple times even before Boxing Day last year. We reopened in March, having been closed for three months. We lost absolutely everything – tables, chairs, cutlery, kitchen equipment, bar equipment. Everything.
It was really difficult. We had a lot of good suppliers who helped us survive. On a personal note, there were some great volunteers who pretty much fed us every day. It kept us going.
The damage cost around £60,000 and of course, we didn’t have any income for three months. We had insurance but we couldn’t get cover for flooding this year. There’s not a lot you can do to prevent it. We had floodgates last year but the water was so high, it came over the top.
In August, we opened a small takeaway in the main part of York, in the hope that if it happens again we will have something to keep us ticking over. The hardest thing over that time was not having any day-to-day income.
We’re looking forward to getting through this winter. By the time we get to next summer, we should be back on track. So far, the river’s behaving itself but if we get hit again, that will be the end of my business.
‘As soon as it starts raining, we start worrying’
Tony Addison, co-owner of 2 Tone Comics, a comic book store in Hebden Bridge. The shop was flooded and lost much of its stock
We opened again in the first week of May. It took us months to dry out and it was quite a shock to receive a £2,000 electricity bill for a tiny shop. The community raised £12,000 for us and that all went on replacing the damaged stock, which was fantastic.
We haven’t seen a massive influx of people coming back to shop in the town. I think we’re still suffering from the floods three years ago, when a lot of customers started going to Skipton and elsewhere. It would be nice to get back to where we were four or five years ago when the town was bustling.
There were so many heroes during the cleanup that a neighbour and I suggested holding an alternative Christmas Day in June. We wanted to show the country that Hebden Bridge is back open and thank the volunteers who had helped. It was weird having carols and snow in the middle of the summer but maybe it will be an annual thing.
Today, as soon as it starts raining we start worrying, but I think that’s the same for everyone in the valley. Work’s being done on the river but it’s slow.
‘Everything had to go into the skip’
Greg Couzens, owner Greg Couzens hair dressing salon in Rochdale
The floods were horrific. We were lucky because we operate over three floors and it was only the ground floor that was affected. We closed off downstairs and were open in about three days. The damage cost £7,000.
Everything had to go into the skip because of the sewage in the water, even if we suspected it had only been splashed. We used gallons of bleach and disinfectant and hosed the shop out.
The public and the council have been amazing. We had competitor salons offer us somewhere to work, and our neighbour hairdresser, Steve, is still renting space with us 12 months later. I would never have considered it before but we get on so well and he’s making much more money without the overheads. That’s the silver lining for us. Every business here has re-opened, bar one.
‘Business didn’t pick up here until July’
Malcolm Goodwin is the owner of Plonkers Wine Bar in York
We normally get flooded every year, so we’re used to it. If the Foss barrier hadn’t failed, no one would have heard anything about flooding in York. It would have been classed as a normal occurrence. For once we got help and funding, but the council still charges businesses for sandbags – residents get them for free.
Because of all the publicity around the flooding, business didn’t pick up here until July. Usually Easter is a busy time for pubs and restaurants after Christmas but it was a non-event this year. But since July, we haven’t stopped. We usually go away in November because it’s quiet but it was too busy this year.
The biggest impact was on cashflow until June. It still cost us the same to run the business but we were quieter. But by 1 January, I think that revenue for the year will be about the same as 2015.
We all feel we’re not going to get flooded again this year. We’ve been here 26 years, so you just get a feeling. Let’s hope we’re right.
‘We spent around £15,000 getting back to normal’
Catherine Pearson, co-owner, Seagulls Paint, Kirkstall, west Yorkshire
We were open again reasonably quickly, within two weeks for our main business and a couple of months for our art space. That was all thanks to people power. The luck of it, if you can call it that, was that it happened over Christmas so people were on holiday and had time to help. We had around 40 people volunteering.
We probably spent around £10,000-£15,000, getting back to normal but some of that was for improvement work so we’d be better equipped if it happened again. As a social business, we were able to apply for grants and we ran a crowdfunding campaign.
A lot of measures have been put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future – one of our neighbours set up a community action group to clean the river, which is right behind the yard, and there are going to be new flood defences built.
‘Out of every adversity, there’s a solution’
Euan Noble, owner of Rokt Climbing Gym, Brighouse, west Yorkshire
Once we were flooded we probably lost £10,000 an hour in terms of our matting and equipment. At 4pm on Boxing Day I had to swim out the front door to lock up. Thanks to 150 volunteers, we were able to reopen within 48 hours but it was April before everything had been rebuilt and repainted.
I don’t think you can calculate the loss of trade. Our normal Christmas period was completely spoiled, but trade’s come back reasonably well. We probably would have been in profit at the end of last year but it’s going to be early next year before we move into a positive trading position.
Since last year we’ve invested in a massive programme to make the place flood resilient. We’ve installed steel, waterproof flood doors, bricked up windows, put foam poles in walls and bought blocks of high density foam for the floor.
I decided that we could limp along and get the business back to where we needed to be, or grow the business. In May we opened an indoor spin studio, and we have plans for an indoor nerf studio, an olympic climbing area for 50 elite athletes, and we’re building the largest man-made urban climbing structure in the country next year.
It’s really lovely to finish the end of the year knowing the fruits of our efforts are going to pay off. I suppose it makes you think that out of every adversity there’s got to be a solution. You just need to find what it is and crack on.
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