SPECIAL REPORT: Impact of floods is still clear to see as clean up continues

Gill Stubbs' home was among those flooded on Boxing Day
Gill Stubbs' home was among those flooded on Boxing Day
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“The village is like a ghost town. There’s hardly anybody living here. There’s still people’s furniture outside.

“It feels quiet and it’s going to be mid-summer by the time it’s all back to normal.”

Lorraine Pilkington and her two daughters moved back into their home on Town Road in Croston a week after the floods hit the village on Boxing Day.

Work is still being done at the Wheatsheaf pub

Work is still being done at the Wheatsheaf pub

She is still working towards getting things back to normal, but says she is “lucky” that she has been able to stay in her home.

But many of her neighbours in Croston are staying in temporary accommodation as they continue to repair the damage caused.

Houses for rent in the village have been snapped up, along with properties in nearby Eccleston, Mawdesley, Bretherton and Euxton, while other people are staying further away with family and friends or even in hotels.

The impact of the floods its still clear to see, with tradesmen’s vans parked around the village, hoses in letterboxes as properties dry out and even Christmas decorations still in place.

While it is now more than six weeks since Storm Eva caused havoc, it will be some time before Croston recovers.

Nurse Lorraine had worked a night shift and went to bed when she returned home on Boxing Day.

But she was soon up again to start moving all her furniture upstairs and could see the water coming towards her house. It got inside at 2.30pm.

She said: “I saw the water coming in. It was like a snake. I could see the water weaving its way through.

“Within 20 minutes it was mid-calf. I left the house at about four o’clock. I trudged through and it was thigh-high then.”

Lorraine spent four days living at Croston Sports Club and says the community spirit was “amazing”, with strangers letting her use their shower, cooking meals and charging her mobile phone.

Once she returned home, she went to help her neighbours and cooked for people in the village.

Because she had moved much of her furniture, it was mainly white goods in her kitchen and the flooring in her lounge that was damaged.

Lorraine did not have insurance but did receive a £500 grant from Chorley Council, which she used to replace her dishwasher and washing machine.

“I didn’t get insurance, it was too expensive,” she said.

“Luckily it was only my white goods that I lost. It was probably half what the instance premium would have cost me.

“The chances of getting it now are probably impossible.”

Lorraine is determined to keep living in the village and is now showing her gratitude for all the help she has received by supporting local businesses and becoming a member of Croston Sports Club.

Gill Stubbs could only sit and watch as floodwater got into her home on Riverside Crescent. She had noticed water in their garage in the morning and went to get sandbags for her elderly neighbours.

But as the conditions became worse, her home flooded for the first time since she moved in eight years ago.

She said: “It had come from both ends of the cul-de-sac. It was so fast I couldn’t do anything. I sat on the stairs and watched. We had 15 to 20 inches.”

She spent the night upstairs with her husband Karl, two children and pets, and the water started to recede the following day.

“I lost everything downstairs,” she said. “My kitchen needs replacing, we have lost everything furniture-wise. We had no electricity for four days so we couldn’t cook and everything in my fridge and freezer was ruined.”

The children went to stay with friends and Gill lived upstairs. It was several weeks before the house dried out and work has only recently started on the repairs.

But Gill discovered she had no insurance, as it had not been automatically renewed as she thought it had.

The repairs are likely to cost thousands of pounds and the family now has second-hand furniture. And Gill fears she may not be able to get flood insurance again.

“It’s going to be impossible. We would have to get house insurance without flood cover,” she said.

Insurance has also been an issue for Jon Lilley and Becky Gleave, who run the Wheatsheaf pub on Town Road.

Flooding in 2012 led to the excess on their insurance increasing massively to £10,000 so they decided not to make a claim.

Jon said: “It’s annoying because it defeats the point of having flood insurance. It’s not like we can shop around and get another policy with a more reasonable excess.

“David Cameron is talking about changing this and I look forward to it happening.”

Around three feet of water got into the pub on Boxing Day, causing extensive damage which led to the pub closing for five days at the busiest time of year.

The bar and kitchen have since reopened but there is still a lot of refurbishment work to be done, including new flooring, carpets and seating.

Jon says the repair work will cost around £16,000, though that figure could still rise. Grants have helped to cover some of the costs, but they are still thousands of pounds out of pocket.

He said: “We lost all those bookings plus the loss of stock. Now a lot of people from Croston have had to move out to temporary accommodation so we have lost some local trade.

“It should have been the busiest time of the year for us in the busiest week of the year and we lost it.”

But he is also committed to staying in Croston and making sure his business is booming. It will be one of the venues hosting bands during a three-day fund-raising music festival in the village from February 26 to 28.

“We will bounce back and I think we will bounce back from it stronger,” Jon said.

“What the flood has done is force our hand into refurbishing the pub, which after four-and-a-half years isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

And when future storms come, the whole village will be waiting to see it the flood defence scheme currently under construction makes a difference.

Jon said: “They seem quite confident that it’s enough in place to stop this recent flood from happening again.

“I speak to other people in the village and the reaction seems to be very mixed. Some people are very confident and some people had said they have lived in the village for 40 years and they accept that it floods.

“It used to be a 25-year occurrence and I think people think it’s a wonderful village and if it happens every 25 years they can handle that because it’s a fantastic place to live. If it’s every two years though...”

Another business that flooded was Amanda Nicholson’s solicitor practice across the street on Town Road.

She could not make it to the practice until the day after Boxing Day because of flooded roads.

Amanda, who opened the practice in 1992, said: “The water was still over three-feet deep. It was more traumatic than last time. It had obviously come through more powerfully.

“All the desks had been picked up and pushed against the wall. We had a little fridge and it had picked it up and left it balanced on a bin.

“I walked in and it was over the electricity meters, but I didn’t think about that at the time. We couldn’t rescue anything.”

Plug sockets had been placed higher up the walls following flooding in 2012 and the bottom drawers of filing cabinets were not being used.

But the floods still had a big impact on the practice and things have not yet returned to normal.

Amanda said: “Loss adjusters and everybody else can almost understand a bit more if it’s a house, which is more traumatic.

“People say this is just an office but we are trying to get everything up and running.

“We have had to get a loan computer and clients have been ringing and leaving messages. Our files are being freeze-dried - nothing will be lost but it’s five to six weeks to get it back.”

Luckily Amanda’s practice was insured and she was able to make a claim.

Efforts are being made to reduce the amount of damage if it floods again, but Amanda believes more could be done.

“Since 2012, the flood warning system on our mobile phones is fabulous, but there are so many,” said Amanda.

“At some point on Christmas Day, before Boxing Day morning, somebody must have known that this was not just a little flood. This was massive.
“I think it would be so much more sensible if instead of sending out 10 flood warnings, it would be lovely if there’s a serious five-star warning.”

The risk of flooding has been a big focus for Grapes Lane resident Kath Almond for the past six years.

She is the chairman of Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group, which was set up to focus on flood prevention and pushed for the flood defence scheme being constructed.

And she is hopeful that the £5.8m project will help to protect the village from flooding in future.

She said: “I’m being optimistic. We have four months before the flood project is completed. I’m quite sure it will cope with any further flooding.

“I have been involved with this for years now from talking about it to it being built and I’m sure it will cope.”

Kath is still working to repair her own home after it flooded when water came from fields nearby.

She said: “It was like a river coming through the house. It was about 10 inches deep. At the time it was just going straight through the house.”

“People are waiting so long to see if something is dry and coming back and checking it and then waiting for builders or estimates or to take the plaster off.

“The village is chaos with the vans all over. Everybody is coping and the insurance companies are being good.”

One of the people who played a key role in supporting the community after the floods was parish councillor Stuart Laverick.

Lower Yarrow Flood Action Group had identified Croston Sports Club as a base if there was a flood.

At first food and drinks were available, but that grew as people needed essentials like cleaning products and appeals on social media through the Croston News Facebook page led to many donations.

The club was even used as shelter for people who could not return home and needed somewhere to stay.

Donations came from far and wide, including money given in lieu of presents on a 100-year-old woman’s birthday and a food parcel from Cumbria, where there had also been floods.

Stuart and fellow parish councillor Mark Cowley set up Croston Flood Relief Fund to help everyone affected on Boxing Day.

More than £30,000 has been raised so far and they are applying for match funding from the Government.

They are now looking to become a registered charity.Sarah Pattison, who launched a separate fund-raising appeal, has joined the committee.

Fundraising is continuing and Stuart is organising a music festival. More than 50 bands will perform at venues around the village later this month and wristbands costing £5 for all three days are on sale.

Stuart said: “We had a target of paying everyone’s excess and anything that has cost people, so we will keep going as long as people are still willing to donate. If it’s six months or a year, then we will keep going.

“Some people have £30,000 excesses so we will never be able to do everyone’s, but that’s our goal. ”

And Stuart says the impact of the flooding is still being felt around Croston.

“It’s now that it’s hitting people,” he said. “People are moving back in and it’s now they are having to deal with emptying stuff and throwing their belongings away or having a dehumidifier whirring away 24/7. It’s getting people down.”

Estate agents have been busy in Croston since the flooding, particularly meeting demand for rental properties for people unable to stay in their homes.

Maria Evans, director of Maria B Evans Estate Agents, was in the village after the floods to help people affected, for example to let Electricity North West engineers into properties.

She said: “We are still renting in the area. They have all been snapped up and the surrounding areas as well.

“What’s very significant is that most of them are only committing to six-month lets because they want to go back to their homes.

“It’s not putting people off living in their homes but they are realistic about getting insurance.”

Despite stories in the village of house sales falling through due to the floods, Maria said people still want to buy houses there.

“We thought it would affect sales but it hasn’t because it’s the cutest village,” she said.

“It’s still a super place to live.”