Ruined equipment, lost stock, premises gutted … and there’s more. Even businesses relatively unscathed by the Boxing Day floods are feeling the effects. And not least because gangs of thieves are targeting properties left vulnerable.
This autumn, Paul Jackson took over the solid fuel business he’d worked in for the last 25 years. It was an exciting move that made him his own boss at last. Valley Fuels, on the Burnley Road between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, had never flooded before.
“This time, though, I knew something was wrong when I saw the flotsam in the gates,” says Paul. “There was a foot and a half of water inside the building.”
Valley Fuels is a cash and carry coalyard and also sells stoves and accessories, chimineas, barbecues and wood. Paul was lucky in that only around £500 of stock was lost, although he also had the job of cleaning and repainting the stoves he sells from his showroom. These will now be sold as flood-damaged. What’s hit him hardest, though, is the loss of business.
“So many people have had to leave their homes or had their vehicles written off because of the flood, I’ve seen far fewer customers than usual,” explains Paul. “I’m losing around £400 a day, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time because this is the season I expect to see me through the quieter times of year.”
Paul was in London with family when he got the flood alert text. He didn’t think once about his business, but only about his home next to the Dusty Miller in Mytholmroyd. His lodger desperately tried to move furniture upstairs, but much of it was too heavy.
Many trainlines were closed, so it wasn’t until the 27th that Paul managed to get home – after pleading with train staff to let him change his ticket.
“There was absolute chaos in Mytholmroyd,” he says. “My house had nearly three feet of water inside. It was wrecked. I’d had a new kitchen fitted in July too. I hadn’t insured it because the best deal I could find was with an £8,000 excess.
“The knock-on effect of the flood will be felt for a long time. I have two friends who are gardeners. They lost their van so can’t work. Mytholmroyd could lose both the Dusty Miller and the Shoulder of Mutton unless people get behind the campaigns to save them,” adds Paul. “We bailed out the banks – where are they when we literally need bailing out!”
And there was more misery to come. At the start of January, £4,000 worth of coal was stolen from Paul’s yard.
“The police told me gangs were descending on flood-hit areas to prey on vulnerable homes and businesses. It’s disgusting.”