Thursday, 18 August 2022

Businesses recovering a year on from floods

BUSINESSES hit by flooding a year ago are on the road to recovery

BUSINESSES hit by flooding a year ago are on the road to recovery.

The Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse restaurant in Station Road, Henley, was forced to close in February last year after flooding twice when the Thames burst its banks.

The business only survived thanks to being able to use the New Orleans, a pleasure boat belonging to Hobbs of Henley next door, and the restaurant building didn?t re-open until May.

Chef Shaun Dickens, who launched the restaurant in 2012, said he had considered closing for good.

?Having the boat was a lifesaver,? he said. ?Without that we would not be in business.

?We were a young and new business and building up a head of steam and the flooding set us back a year.

?It has been tough but we have worked really hard to launch the business for a second time and we are now starting to see the fruits of that.

?We have full services at weekends and just need a few more bums on seats midweek. We are trying to get our name back out there.?

Since the floods, a 2ft trench has been dug around part of the premises to try to avoid a repeat.

Last year the business was named restaurant of the year and best gastronomic restaurant at the Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards and was recognised in the best of Britain category of the Tatler Restaurant Awards.

Mr Dickens, who lives in Harpsden Road with his wife Gemma and 18-month-old son Alfie, added: ?We now want to cement ourselves as a business within Henley and to carry on growing as a business, product and restaurant.

?Any more awards that happen to come along would be fantastic.?

Meanwhile, the Flowing Spring pub at Playhatch is busy again having lost about half of its trade when its car park was under several feet of water for about two months last winter.

It was the second year running it had suffered flooding.

Nick Willson, who runs the pub with his wife Hazel Lucas, said: ?Fuller?s did not charge us rent, which was a brilliant thing for a pub company to do. It gave us a helping hand through the depressing times.

?It has been perfect since the flooding. We had a very good summer, which is always important, as we have a big garden and lots of outdoors events.

?We try to allocate funds to get through the winter because we never know what it is going to be like.?

Fuller?s has also offered to pay for a £50,000 flood defence scheme but this is still not in place.

Mr Willson said: ?The brewery has been working on it since February and they have put together plans to raise the car park so if the ground is flooded the car park would still be useable.

?The sticking point has been the Environment Agency, which doesn?t want any further displacement of water even though the land is tiny in comparison with the flood plain it is on.

?Negotiations are ongoing and we have reached the last hurdle, which is to do some surveys of other people?s property to see how they would be impacted.

?Provided that happens, planning permission needs to be given before work could start. Hopefully it will be in place by next winter.?

Hobbs of Henley managing director Jonathan Hobbs said: ?Business was affected by the flooding in the early part of the spring as everyone saw the Thames as a no-go area.

?From Easter onwards we had dry weather and we had a good summer and people were more confident in spending their money.

?We have put a bund wall below the entrance to the boat house so we can pump the water out more effectively and efficiently. We are also looking to make sure that all the pumps are ready to go with no chance of breaking down.?

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