Derby

Whaley Bridge dam: Can evacuated residents and businesses get compensation?

Malcolm Swets
Image caption Goyt Wines manager Malcolm Swets says the company's insurance provider is disputing the bar's claim for loss of earnings

Hundreds of Whaley Bridge residents have spent almost a week away from their homes and businesses.

Now, as they return, they are left wondering: "What next?"

For many, the question of compensation - for lost earnings or food and accommodation costs - springs to mind. But how much of a struggle is this likely to be?

'Not making money'

Goyt Wines manager Malcolm Swets said the shop and bar had lost "thousands of pounds" in revenue over the week.

"We're going to have trouble because our insurance company is disputing paying out anything for lost earnings," he said.

"A flood didn't happen, [there's been] no damage to the property, so we can't claim on anything like that."

He said the insurers were disputing whether the fact customers were prevented from accessing the shop fell under their policy.

The shop's owners have been referred to the Financial Ombudsman over the claim.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Hairdresser Julian Thompson reopened his salon within hours of the cordon being lifted on Thursday

Adeva hairdressers owner Julian Thompson reopened his salon hours after the cordon had been lifted.

He said he would have struggled to cope if the evacuation had continued.

"I have staff and I have to pay their wages," he said.

"A week, I could just about do it. Any longer than that and I'm starting to panic."

Image caption Phoenix Takeaway owner Siu Lok Wong worries his insurance premiums will go up if he claims for loss of earnings

Siu Lok Wong, owner of the Phoenix Takeaway, said he had lost seven days' worth of trade.

He said: "If we're not open, we're not making any money, but it's the same for every business here."

He said he had been in touch with his insurance company and expected to receive a payout for loss of earnings but feared it could push up his premium in the future.

The Association for British Insurers (ABI) said businesses with cover for "denial of access" should be able to claim for loss of earnings if they were inside the evacuation cordon.

'Everybody's safe'

For evacuated townsfolk who have paid out for accommodation, food and other emergency supplies, insurance claims may prove trickier.

Malcolm Tarling, from the ABI, said: "Flood insurance cover kicks in when any flooding actually occurs.

"When it does, insurers will respond quickly to help homeowners and firms recover."

As no properties in Whaley Bridge were damaged as a result of the dam breaching, costs incurred by the evacuation may not be reimbursable through home insurance - although the ABI said there was "no harm in checking in with your insurer".

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Some businesses based in the evacuation zone were unable to trade as emergency services worked to avert a flood

One Whaley Bridge resident, who did not wish to be named, said his insurers had already told him they would pay for his hotel costs after he had to pay for rooms on the first night of the evacuation.

His family also spent more than £1,000 on a week-long stay at a care home for an elderly relative, but he had yet to check with the relative's insurer over compensation for respite care.

However, like many of the evacuees, his overriding feeling was relief that his family were safe.

"We're prepared to pay for it - at the end of the day everyone's safe and nobody's hurt," he said.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The overriding feeling among evacuees is relief that they are safe

Fellow resident Ruth Ashton, 26, agreed. She stayed with her parents after being advised to leave her home, so did not spend money on accommodation herself, but said: "I know some people have found it financially difficult so they should definitely get some form of compensation or reimbursement for whatever they lost."

She pointed out that some people had been unable to work but still had to pay rent and living costs.

"Business owners have lost a massive amount of income and still have to pay business rates for properties that they're letting," she said.

"It's not really [the insurers'] fault we were evacuated; it's nobody's fault. It's a massive inconvenience but, at the end of the day, everybody's safe."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Support may be available from the council for residents returning to their homes

But might stricken residents have other options when it comes to financial support?

Derbyshire County Council said it would set up two emergency funds - worth £160,000 - for residents and businesses that were financially affected by the evacuation.

A spokeswoman said part of it would be funded through the Derbyshire Discretionary Fund, which would be topped up by county council's budget.

She added: "The business emergency support fund of £100,000 is being set aside from existing council reserves to provide emergency relief to businesses out of pocket as a result of the Toddbrook Reservoir incident."

On a positive note for residents, Malcolm Tarling from the ABI said flooding as a result of dam breaches was "extremely rare".

"I don't think an incident that didn't happen will affect the cost of insurance," he said.


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