One year on – how Lancaster businesses recovered after Storm Desmond

Susan Millward sent this photo of firemen giving her children a ride whilst evacuating the flats on lower St Georges Quay on Sunday.
Susan Millward sent this photo of firemen giving her children a ride whilst evacuating the flats on lower St Georges Quay on Sunday.

2016 was a year of great upheaval for many of the businesses in Lancaster affected as a result of damage caused by Storm Desmond.

Numerous firms based alongside the River Lune or close to it were closed for several months as they awaited insurance pay-outs and renovation work.

And last month the Guardian reported that many residents and businesses have still not been able to return to their properties nearly a year after the floods hit.

At the end of October, out of the 225 households affected by the flooding 28 households were still not able to return to their homes.

Of the 212 businesses affected, 19 were still not in operation, 22 were partially operational and six had permanently closed or moved out of the Lancaster district.

Many of the city’s restaurants and entertainment venues were hit by floodwater.

Lancaster bus station was flooded over the weekend of December 5/6.

Lancaster bus station was flooded over the weekend of December 5/6.

Among those, some such as Marco’s Italian restaurant and the Green Ayre Wetherspoon pub in North Road, remain closed.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We have recently purchased the freehold interest in the building and are now reviewing our future plans for the site and potential redevelopment options.

“Whilst this site remains closed, we continue to operate The Sir Richard Owen which is located only a short walk away.”

However, thanks to the hard work of many local people, the majority of businesses have been able to start again throughout the year.

Among the first restaurants to get back on their feet in the storm’s wake was Kashish Indian restaurant in Parliament Street, which partially opened in January amid fears the damage could have closed the business completely.

It was a sight which company director Majid Choudry wondered if he would ever see, having witnessed the destruction caused by the floods of December 5 and 6.

“The flooding had a devastating and crippling effect on our premises, “ Mr Choudry said.

“The floodwaters entered our basement on the Saturday at about 7pm. The basement is the heart of our restaurant. It holds the vast majority of our catering equipment and stock and everything suffered damage.

“Also, the fabric of our basement was damaged, and water entered the electrics.”

The restaurant closed that weekend for work to begin on repairing the damage caused, and reopened four weeks later, having missed out on business over Christmas and New Year.

Quayside pub the Wagon and Horses reopened for business in March.

Licensees Paul Tarry and Carole Crossley managed to turn things around after £8,500 worth of their beer and spirits stock was damaged through water entering the cellar and pub.

The licensees and staff could only stand back and watch helplessly as the pub was filled with water from the riverbank, resulting in the cancellation of up to 800 bookings from customers wishing to visit over the Christmas and New Year period.

After reopening, Carole said: “The Wagon and Horses is our pride and joy and although the last few months have been extremely emotional, as a team, as well as a community, we have pulled together and brought this historic pub back to life.”

One of Lancaster’s biggest restaurants remained closed until September.

Blue Moon Thai restaurant in Rosemary Lane was severely damaged by the flooding, and general manager Tahir Masud said he was relieved to finally be open again.

“It’s been full steam ahead for months now, so it’s good to get to this stage at last, ” he said.

“It has been frustrating but it gave us the opportunity to get everything perfect and to freshen things up and recreate our menus.

“We are taking the positive from what happened.”

Shops affected in Rosemary Lane included Lamberts binocular & telescope specialists and Waterhouse clothing shop.

While Andrew Ireland continued operating out of Lamberts with a limited selection of stock from his devastated premises, while his neighbour Dominic Waterhouse moved premises entirely.

Lamberts eventually fully re-opened after Easter.

The shop had been left under 2ft of water when Storm Desmond struck on December 5, losing Andrew around £2,000 worth of stock.

“In the 28 years I have had the shop I have never seen anything like it,” he later said.

“The drains just couldn’t cope with it.

“December is usually my busiest month but the flooding just about killed it, ” Andrew said.

“But I have kept reasonably upbeat. It’s demoralising, but I am better off than some people are.

“We have been through things before and survived. Things can only get better.”

Meanwhile, Waterhouse moved from Rosemary lane to Brock Street as a result of the storm.

Dominic opened his new store in April, having lost around £25,000 worth of stock to water damage.

“You just don’t know if it will happen again and I didn’t want to go through that again,” he said. “We lost half of our stock.

“We had moved as much as we could but a lot of our shelves were full with Christmas stock.

“I needed a bigger shop anyway so when the opportunity came up it felt like the time was right. It’s totally different and it’s come at the right time really.”

Further down the road, long-standing Lancaster business Simply Baby re-opened in April at its original premises.

The shop was forced to relocate from North Road to New Street when Storm Desmond hit, as the shop was so badly damaged that it needed a complete refurbishment.

Owner Julie Shaw said: “It has been difficult, the storm had an enormous impact in the area and we were one of many businesses affected by it. We had no choice but to let the shop dry out for a couple of months and relocate. It has been a very lengthy process, but we’re getting back on our feet now. You just have to brush yourself off and pick yourself up again.”

And around the corner, Heaton Hair was also back on its feet in April following a complete refurbishment.

The salon was among several businesses in Chapel Street forced to close when the floods hit on December 5.

Owner Tina Berry was helped out by Jo & Cass while her salon was refitted.

“I have had to build the business back up from the beginning again, but we are back trading and that’s all you can ask for really, “ Tina said.

Charity shops were also affected by the flooding, with The Children’s Society’s shop on Damside Street unable to open until June, while the Samaritans shop in Damside Street wasn’t able to operate until August.

Along Caton Road, many business struggled to get back on their feet quickly.

Commercial printer Pagefast Print and Publishing Ltd reopened in July after having to deal with more than three feet of river water and sludge flowing into the works in Caton Road after the Lune burst its banks.

The water washed out most of the firm’s equipment, including a new machine installed just two months prior to the deluge.

Managing director Keith Simpson said: “The storm devastated our systems, machinery, production and building, but everyone played their part in doing whatever was necessary to get the company up and running again.

“I am thrilled to have been able to retain all our staff through what’s been a terribly stressful time. Happily we can now start to move the business forward.”

Johnsons Apparelmaster, in Lansil Way off Caton Road, wasn’t fully operational again until September, when all staff were back in their usual roles after many of them spent several months commuting to Manchester.

Thanks to a cash injection of £2m, the factory was fitted out with new equipment, including industrial washing machines worth £60,000 each.

General manager Graham Huddleston said: “Currently this year, despite the floods, we are the top centre in the company. The people here really care and that’s great. Without their help it would have been a real challenge.”