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Braunton businesses facing weeks of repairs following flooding

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

  • LATEST NEWS: Nick Phillips and sales assistant Pauline Van-Vliet at Braunton News still managed to send out the newspapers, Picture: Mike Southon. Ref: BNMS20130103C-017_C

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IT WILL be weeks, if not months, before several flood-hit shops in the centre of Braunton are back to normal.

Among the worst affected were premises in Caen Street which flooded twice following record levels of rain just before Christmas.

The Gulf Stream Surf Shop needs to replace its carpets and a few fittings after floodwater reached 2ft.

Manager Will Smith said: "We were really lucky. We didn't lose a single thing. We were able to move all the stock up high. There was nothing lower than two and a half feet."

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After spending all day clearing up on Sunday, the shop was able to open on Christmas Eve.

But Will wants to know how the flood happened and what the Environment Agency is going to do to stop it happening again.

He said: "It is still early in the winter and I would not be surprised if it floods again."

Braunton News flooded to a depth of 3ft, but owner Nick Phillips still managed to get 300 papers delivered the following day.

Nick, who owns the business with his wife Ruth, put threshold boards over the doors and moved the tills and the lottery machine upstairs, once he realised there was a risk of flooding.

Although the boards helped to slow down the rate of the floodwater, it still reached waist high.

He said: "We lost a fair amount of merchandise. I was able to get back into the shop on Sunday morning and the papers went out as usual."

He will need to replace the carpets and the drinks cooler.

Work has already started on replacing the wooden cladding on the walls.

He doesn't apportion blame for the deluge.

He said: "We have had so much rain. It was the sheer amount of water. It just broke the banks. It could have been worse if they had not done the flood defence work."

Lloyds Pharmacy lost a lot of merchandise when it was flooded by 3ft of water, but it was able to open for prescriptions on Christmas Eve.

The shop has now been deep cleaned.

Manager Sam Benham asked: "How can this have happened with the new flood defence scheme?"

Dawn Nott, trainee dispensing assistant, believed it may have been a lot worse if the scheme had not been in place.

Staff at the restaurant and cafe At One had a race against time to get the place clean and operational as customers depended on them for their Christmas Day meal.

The quick thinking of manager Ivan Reece prevented more damage.

He was able to raise some of the fridges in the kitchen up on stock pots to keep their motors out of the water and get the chairs on to tables.

Owner Jane Steeley said: "As soon as the water was pumped out we were literally sweeping and clearing out the silt and mud.

We worked three days non-stop because we were due to open on Christmas Day.

We were fully booked on Christmas Day with 42 people so we were determined to open.

"We re-painted the restaurant and re-varnished the slate floors and literally cleaned everything to within an inch of its life."

They lost one fridge and the floodwater buckled the wooden floor.

Miss Steeley estimates they lost about £5,000 in trade, particularly as the restaurant had been fully booked for the three nights leading up to Christmas.

She said: "We haven't claimed insurance as the premium would go up. It was better for us just to get it done (cleaned); we managed to get up and running through pure hard work."

She believes the flooding was caused by the extraordinary amount of water and suggested that the flood defences by the Memorial Gardens could have been made higher.

She also said they could not get hold of enough sandbags in time and suggested the local authorities should set up a local centre where businesses can get them in the future.

It is business as usual for the main part of Slees Home Hardware but it will be another week before the electrical shop is open.

The hardware shop saw three inches of flooding but their electrical shop was worst hit.

It was flooded by two and a half feet of water and its stock of white goods needs to be replaced.

Goods in the hardware section was already on plinths, past experience having shown them the error of putting stuff on the floor.

Staff also put goods from the garden section on stools, so minimal stock was damaged.

When water levels rose again on the Saturday night, staff sealed the door with silicone which prevented a second flood.

For the very first time in the business's history Slees opened on the Sunday for trade.

Owner Alison Serret said she knew the flood defence scheme would reach its limit because of the continuous rainfall.

She is convinced they would have been flooded the previous week as well, if the scheme had not been done.

She said: "I don't think it (the scheme) failed. There is only so much any community can do and I think we are going to have to get used to being more proactive ourselves.

"We know where our limit is in this shop. We know where the flood will peak and we know where to raise products.

"I think what we will do next time is try to get as much white stock out of the danger zone as possible."

Tangles Hair and Beauty was flooded to a depth of one and a half feet and will need part of its walls re-plastered.

Assistant manager Charlotte Shirley believes the flood defence scheme worked as it was designed to do, but in the end was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of water.

She said: "I just don't think anyone was expecting there to be that much water. It just did not stop raining."

Caen Cards and Gifts was flooded to a depth of 2ft.

Owner Darrin Pimlott said lots of merchandise was lost but he was hoping to re-open the business as soon as possible.

He added: "We cannot wait to get up and running again because it is our livelihood and we don't like to see Braunton closed."

He wants to know what the authorities are going to do to stop it happening again.

Estate agent James Benning said: "The flood defence scheme worked for a while but for some reason or another it started to fail.

"I am not saying it is a white elephant, far from it. It was obviously designed to a certain level but plainly the amount of rain was far in excess of their calculations."

Many of the shops in Caen Street remain closed in the aftermath of the flood.

At Warrens, the bakery, maintenance supervisor Paul Acreman said the shop needed to be completed re-fitted.

The water levels, which reached 29in, went over the counters, work services, heat display cabinets and inside the freezer.

All the food has been emptied and efforts have been undertaken to sanitise the place.

Mr Acreman said: "It is a complete write-off; everything has gone. It is going to be a complete re-fit."

Optometrist Mark Adams managed to salvage his patients' records before the floods wreaked damage.

The water levels came up to 3ft.

He said: "It has ruined virtually everything."

He is still able to offer repairs and contact lenses but he believes it will be another two or three months before he is able to properly re-open.

He will be able to see some clients at his Ilfracombe practice or under his home visiting service.

And he wants to know why the Environment Agency did not build better flood defences.

Floodwater also poured down Chaloners Road and South Street, flooding The Mariners Arms up to a depth of 8in.

Help from friends ensured that it was cleared and opened for business as soon as possible.

There are five industrial dehumidifiers "drying" out the place, the one in the kitchen plumbed directly into the drains.

Big fans are also being used to circulate the air.

Some of the walls need to be re-plastered and redecorated but that can only be done when they are dried out which could take up to three weeks.

It also needs to be re-carpeted throughout.

Landlord Fred Cohen said: "It would be nice to get it all finished by Easter but it will depend on how long it takes to dry out."

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