Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 10:59 UK

Communities in Cumbria emerge from floods misery

By Lee Morgan
BBC News

Bridge collapse
The scene last November after the collapse of a bridge over the River Derwent

Half a year has passed since the River Derwent flooded in Cumbria causing an estimated £100m damage across surrounding towns such as Cockermouth.

In the centre of Cockermouth, water levels reached more than 2.5m (8ft 2in), devastating businesses along Main Street that included a toy shop owned by Jonty Chippendale.

"Our ground floor was totally gutted and it's been six months of very hard work. But one thing you can say about Cockermouth, you don't have to worry about volcanoes," he said.

The town has seen 133 businesses return to their original premises since the flood, while 85 are still in the rebuilding process.

Mr Chippendale hopes to have reopened his shop by the end of the month and, as head of the town's chamber of trade, knows the struggles some shops are still facing.

It has been six months since 372mm of rain fell over Cumbria in two days
More than 50 agencies were involved in the recovery and clean-up operation
There is an estimated £100m bill for damage
More than 1,000 homes and businesses were flooded
110 farms suffered severe damage in the flooding
The £2.4m Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund has assisted 700 households and 70 organisations
Seven 'smaller' bridges still need to be repaired or rebuilt in the worst affected areas

He said: "Some businesses are still battling with their insurers, and struggling with a bureaucracy that runs on two speeds: Slow and dead slow.

"My own experience with my insurer was fantastic, and I think so much depends on the loss adjuster that you get."

Cumbria's infrastructure was dealt a major blow when the surge in the River Derwent destroyed several foot and road bridges in November.

Most significant was the collapse of the Northside Bridge in Workington, which killed Pc Bill Barker, 44, and divided the town.

The result was an 18-mile traffic detour that affected 800 students in the area, as journeys to and from schools increased by more than an hour.

That detour is no longer necessary, as Northside Bridge was replaced in April by a temporary £4.6m bridge.


Flooded home still uninhabitable

Eddie Martin, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: "Some road and foot bridges still need to be repaired or rebuilt, some people are still waiting to get back into their homes.

"Six months on, we want the rest of the country to realise that Cumbria is open for business, but also to recognise that we're still recovering from the floods and there's some important lessons to be learned."

Between Wednesday 18 November and Friday 20 November, 372mm of rain fell over the county.

In the 24-hours ending 0045 GMT on 20 November, 314mm of rain fell in Seathwaite. This was a record daily rainfall for the UK.

Jonty Chippendale
Jonty Chippendale will return to his toy shop on Main Street, Cockermouth

The Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund, which raised over £2.4m, has provided assistance for approximately 700 households and 70 organisations.

Judi Evans, operations director for the British Red Cross, said: "We know from our experience in Morpeth, and it is also very true in Cumbria, that it can take months and sometimes years for people to fully come to terms with what has happened to them."

Mr Chippendale said Cumbria's "tough farming" spirit should enable the region to bounce back fully.

Agriculture was among those areas affected by November's downpour, as floodwater washed over surrounding fields.

Nearly 100 farmers received grants to help clean up gravel and debris from their land.

A handful of farmers, whose fields could not be restored for farming use, have been advised to sell their land.

Flood waters on Cockermouth street
Cockermouth saw some of the worst flooding in Cumbria for years

In March, tourist businesses in Cumbria reported an upward trend in profits for the first time since November.

Mr Chippendale said he and other shop owners, who anticipate a slow but steady year, believe attracting tourists is the key to the region's recovery.

He added: "I'm here now in Cockermouth, on a beautiful sunny day, surrounded by countryside. Who'd want to be anywhere else?"

The Environment Agency said their emergency works in Cumbria are due for completion in the summer.

A council spokesman said: "We're on track in terms of delivering the recovery programme, but people in Cockermouth may argue we're not fully recovered until flood defences are installed, which may or may not ever happen."

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