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Flood grant helps Kendal couple get back to business

Janice and Martin Dickens in newly re-opened Frydays
Janice and Martin Dickens in their newly re-opened Frydays fish and chip shop in Kendal

13 July 2016

Like hundreds of other residents and business owners in South Lakeland, the weekend of  5 and 6 December 2015 will leave an indelible mark in the memories of Martin and Janice Dickens.

The flooding caused by Storm Desmond at their fish and chip shop in Kendal was a devastating blow for the couple just two years after taking over the New Road business.

It has taken them seven months of hard work to re-build Frydays, but last week they were able to re-open the popular riverside chippy for the first time since the floods.

Martin says they had to literally take the premises back down to its bare bones and start all over again, completely re-fitting and replacing everything they’d lost.

But thanks to new resilience measures installed as part of that rebuilding process the couple are at least confident that, if the flooding of last December is ever repeated, they won’t face the same scenario.

“We’ve had all sorts of things done, from putting in waterproof flooring and materials, to fitting a stainless steel kitchen and moving all the electrics higher’’ explained Martin.

“If we have anything like that again hopefully now we should be able to mop up, sanitise everywhere and get back open much quicker, without having to replace the lot.’’

Martin and Janice were able to pay for the extra resilience measures over and above the like-for-like repair costs covered by their insurance after applying to South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) for a flood resilience grant.

Under the scheme home and business owners are able apply for grants of up to £5,000 to install measures to protect properties against the impact of future flooding.

And Martin and Janice are urging anyone affected by December’s floods who hasn’t yet applied to find out more.

“I know some people have said it’s a complex process but to be honest we found it fairly straightforward’’ said Martin. “I read that the scheme had been extended to include businesses so I filled out the forms, took advice about what things we should do and sent in quotes for the work and a few weeks later we heard it had been okayed.’’

The couple have so far received £3,500 towards the resilience work they’ve installed and are now looking to apply again to cover some resistance work (such as floodgates) that also falls within the remit of the scheme.

“It was a horrible, stressful time and it was all so overwhelming so I can understand if people haven’t wanted to think about filling out more forms, but we’d say to anyone in our position to definitely apply, it can really make a difference’’ said Janice.

“There are all sorts of hidden costs after something like this’’ continued Martin. “We had to replace all our utensils and just about everything in here only a couple of years after we refurbished the place after we took it over, so every bit of help we could get was welcome and now we hope we are better protected if the worst should happen again.’’

The flood resilience grant scheme and its application criteria have been devised by central government and SLDC has been tasked with administering the grants.

The grants are intended to fund additional measures which improve the property’s future protection or resistance to flooding, over and above any repairs to flooded properties that would normally be covered by insurance.

The grant money is intended to be spent on improving the property’s resilience – which means not necessarily keeping flood water out, but ensuring that if the property floods again then the flooding will cause less damage and the property owner will be able to return much quicker.

SLDC has already written to all flood-affected residents and businesses informing them about the grant scheme with details how to apply and an application form.

The grants have also been promoted through the council’s social media channels and in local press articles, while information about the grants has been sent to community, business and charity groups involved in flood recovery work in the district. Details about the £5,000 grants have also been given out at roadshows and mobile units that have visited flood affected communities.

In addition a national charity backed by Prince Charles is supporting the £5,000 grant application process in South Lakeland.

The Business Emergency Resilience Group (BERG) - which is part of Prince Charles' charity 'Business in the Community' - has set up a one-stop advice unit at ASDA in Kendal to help local residents and businesses to apply for the £5,000 grants.

Advisers in the unit will be able to offer help and free no obligation advice about the grant process and they can, if the applicant chooses, also help to arrange surveys and quotes for installation work through the BERG network of businesses. 

Officers at SLDC are strongly recommending that property owners use some of the grant – typically from £150 up to a maximum of £500 – to get a professional flood survey carried out on their property.

This will identify the most appropriate and effective measures that should be taken to best protect the property from future flooding, and will help residents to apply for the correct amount of funding to carry out these measures.

The cost of the survey can be recouped as part of the grant application and in cases where a resident/business owner can’t afford the cost of the survey up-front, arrangements can be made to pay the surveyor directly from the grant fund.

More details about the scheme, including a list of the kinds of measures that can be taken, an idea of costs, how to apply and lists of local companies that can provide flood surveys, can be found on the SLDC website at: http://www.southlakeland.gov.uk/flooding-help-and-advice/grants/property-flood-resilience-grant/

An SLDC spokesman said: “More than 500 home and business owners have already applied for the grant.

“We want as many people as possible to benefit from this grant like Martin and Janice have to install measures that better protect their property in the event of future flooding.

“We can also help with advice about whole community solutions, where neighbours can apply together to install complementary measures or measures that will help to protect a whole street.

“Our officers will support community schemes to ensure the best possible measures are installed, so if a group of residents or businesses wish to nominate a representative and get in touch we can offer help and advice with the application.

“There is also an expectation from central government that putting in appropriate flood resilience measures should be recognised by insurers to ensure property owners get the best possible deal on flood insurance in the future.’’

The funding is designed for measures to minimise the impact of flooding from adverse weather conditions and not, for instance, from the failure of water mains, internal water systems, or the failure of a sewerage system (unless the failure was itself caused by the adverse weather conditions). 

Grants will be payable to the person responsible for the fabric of the property, normally the property-owner.   Consideration will be given to property owners who wish to pool grants to enable flood arrangements to be put in place that may protect a number of properties in a community.

Anyone who has already instructed builders to carry out repair work on their property that includes flood resilience measures may be able to claim back the cost of the specific flood protection work retrospectively from the grant fund if they can provide invoices for the work.

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For more information, please contact the SLDC Communications Team on 01539 793300.

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