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Devastated traders watch livelihoods go down river.

Byline: Helen Bruce and Alun Thorne

Businesses in the path of the surging Severn estimate the floods will cost them millions of pounds.

Damage to buildings and stock, loss of trade and lack of staff have left Shropshire reeling and the same fate awaits the Herefordshire and Worcestershire towns downstream.

Many buildings have been rendered uninsurable, and hence unsaleable, after being struck by flooding twice in as many years.

And work to secure flood defences around towns such as Shrewsbury remains in the planning stage.

Peter Morgan, of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: 'We will not be able to work out a regional cost until the floods have died down and we see what's left behind.

'But I know that insurance companies are gearing up to pounds 200m of claims nationally, and that's just after the storm damage let alone the floods.

'It's like when you have a shoplifter. They take something and you won't get it back. It's the same with the floods. If you've lost money because people are not coming in it is lost for good.'

Victoria Katz, incoming president of Shrewsbury Chamber of Commerce and manager of Darwin Shopping Centre, said: 'People are still coming in on foot, but trade in the town as a whole is down and some areas, like Frankwell and Abbey Foregate, are completely shut off.

'The frustrating thing is that we're in the lap of the gods on this one. The situation is out of our control. We just have to hope that our customers are loyal and will come back.'

Bruce Hudson, who runs Owen's restaurant in Butcher Row, Shrewsbury, said the flood was costing him as much as pounds 1,000 a day.

He said: 'I would say that business has been down by about 50 per cent on a normal week. The place is like a ghost town.

'The council will happily collect our rates and yet we are seeing the town centre flood year upon year with little being done to stop it.

'I appreciate it is a big problem and is not going to be solved overnight, but some sort of action would be nice.'

Daniel Millar, a partner at Cooper Green estate agents in Barker Street, said the cost to his industry would be counted over the next 15 years.

He said: 'We now have a whole range of properties that were once desirable and after this week have been stigmatised as in danger of flooding.

'Riverside properties have always had this problem but this week the floods have affected properties that are in roads that have never been affected before.

'Basically, they are uninsurable which makes them mortgageable which effectively makes then unsaleable.'

Yet such a disaster could happen again in Shrewsbury at any time.

The Environment Agency proposed a permanent flood defence for Shrewsbury in 1994, but it was rejected by the borough council and public as an eyesore.

A council spokesman said: 'Shrewsbury is an aesthetically pleasing, attractive medieval town. People who come to shop enjoy the general ambience.'

The designers had also not solved the problem of water seeping up through the gravel-based ground, and running back up the pipes intended to drain the town.

Now the council is looking at a system used on the Rhine, which uses removable metal barriers when a warning is sounded.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 3, 2000
Words:558
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