Councillors pledge action to help small businesses still reeling from July flash floods

Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Rapid action must be taken to support small businesses left reeling after unprecedented rainfall devastated their properties and the surrounding landscape, councillors have agreed.

A full meeting of Richmondshire District Council saw members launch a task force inquiry that in just two weeks’ time would release its findings about how much funding firms in lower Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, Leyburn and Bellerby would need to recover from the flooding in July.

Members heard while the government had made available funding to help farmers hit by the disaster and restore roads, no such assistance had been afforded to other businesses.

After the Yorkshire Dales was deluged 3.2in of rain in 24 hours, the majority in the space of four hours, the authority spent about £250,000 on the huge clean-up operation alone.

It is thought the flooding hit at least 40 businesses.

Lower Swaledale and Arkengarthdale councillor Richard Good said despite huge restoration efforts visitor numbers had remained down in the tourism-dependent area.

He said the cancellation of the Upper Wensleydale and Swaledale parts of the UCI World Championships elite men’s race last month had “added to our problems”.

He said: “A message went out again in the national media that we are again affected by flooding, whereas we were hoping, with the street art that we had done, that we could say we are back open for business to the world.”

Cllr Good said the council and its officers had gone out of their way to support and help those affected by the flooding, but numerous businesses were struggling to pay the additional costs the flooding had created.

Bainbridge member Councillor Yvonne Peacock said it was unfair that “various different groups” had received help while “businesses have missed out”.

Members said while the authority had already lost £120,000 of income through offering council tax and business rates exemptions to those affected by the flooding, the local economy in the area was fragile and needed help all year round.

Cllr Peacock compared the suffering of the businesses to that of rural firms during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001.

After Councillor Jill McMullon described a proposed £30,000 pot for business grants as “the tiniest amount” and said the authority should consider increasing it, several members agreed.

The authority’s chairman Councillor Stuart Parsons said businesses needed “meaningful” amounts of financial help. He said to help get businesses back on their feet the council should North Yorkshire County Council and other organisations, such as Two Ridings Community Foundation, to provide cash assistance.