Last Word

Somerset Levels. Credit Pauline Hook

Somerset Levels. Credit Pauline Hook - Credit: Pauline Hook

A year after floodwaters began their devastating tirade of the Somerset Levels, two of the key agencies involved reflect on the past year and what is being done for the future

Patricia Marks

Managing Director

 

Somerset Business Agency

“Devastating, catastrophic, heart-breaking: we ran out of phrases to aptly describe the impact of the floods on homes, farms and businesses.

The highest recorded water level in one area was 17 feet, but the floods didn’t just do physical damage, the emotional impact has been enormous as well. Some people lost everything.

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But Somerset folk are pretty tough and from the outset there was a tremendous spirit and determination to rebuild what was lost. Tackling one of the biggest hurdles was overturning the perception, fostered by weeks and weeks of negative media coverage, that Somerset was closed for business.

Somerset was, soon after the water receded, very much open for business! There was a sense of frustration that more was not done to show things were swiftly getting back to normal and that if you wanted a warm welcome and a vibrant business community, you’d certainly find it here.

Many firms, even months after the floodwaters subsided, had not fully re-opened for business while others faced a long haul to recover lost business, restore full capability and sort out insurance settlements. Since earlier this year the FSB has been at the forefront of efforts to rebuild businesses affected by the flooding that overwhelmed communities, particularly in the Somerset Levels. Funding established a new post of Business Village Agent - a local person with specific empathy for the challenges faced by rural businesses and communities.

Nicky Bailey was appointed as the new Business Village Agent and is employed by the Community Council for Somerset.

In the immediate aftermath of the flooding Nicky offered more practical support but, as time has gone on, Nicky has developed a broad-ranging brief to be there for businesses who need business support, advice and assistance to access grant funds, and to help engage with flood prevention and resilience initiatives.

Because we have established an excellent network of strategic partnerships, we are a linchpin for business support in the area.”

Justin Sargent

Chief Executive

 

Somerset Community Foundation

“I am still deeply moved by both the plight of those who were most affected by the floods earlier this year and by the phenomenal response to Somerset Community Foundation’s flood relief fund appeal.

As a charity we already work with families, businesses and trusts to support local causes and make a difference in communities where they live and work. This meant we had the essential infrastructure to launch the flood relief appeal when it was needed.

With the endorsement and support of Somerset County Council, the Prince’s Countryside Fund, FLAG and so many others we were able to provide a focus for those wishing to donate, as well as those seeking help.

In the early stages of the crisis, when people needed swift help, the majority of our grants were turned around within 24 hours of receiving an application. Since then we have helped hundreds of households, as well as the rural economy and the community at large.

It may sound obvious but the events of this year have demonstrated the fundamental importance of shelter and ‘home’, something I certainly have taken for granted.

Thanks to the generosity of the public, local businesses, churches, mosques and trusts, we are still able to help dozens of households on their journey to recover this most fundamental of needs.

However, recovery cannot be solely about bricks and mortar. With the help of a special fund established by the Somerset Freemasons we are also investing in rebuilding the community, supporting the essential infrastructure and local organisations.

I cannot imagine how anyone who was flooded must be feeling each time it rains, but it must help to be part of a vibrant, supportive community.”