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Flood grants help protect Kendal woman's home

4 October 2016

For the first time this year Sinead McCann is looking forward to spending the night in her own home - 10 months since she was flooded out by Storm Desmond.

Sinead’s 130-year-old riverside cottage in Kendal bore the full force of the floods in December 2015.

At its height the floodwater was nearly a metre deep throughout the downstairs rooms of the home on Benson Green where Sinead has lived for the past 10 years.

It meant she was unable to live at the property, and she has spent all of 2016 either staying with friends or in temporary rented accommodation.

It has been a long journey getting her home back to a habitable state, involving the virtual re-building of much of the main downstairs living areas.

But now the work is complete Sinead is intending to move back in within the next few days – and she has made sure she’s prepared her property should the flooding nightmare ever become a reality again.

Sinead has used money from a £5,000 flood resilience grant administered by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) to install measures that should mean that if she floods again, it will be weeks rather than months before she can return.

“I don’t want to go through all that again. I wanted to do what I could now, so that if it happens again it won’t be as awful or traumatic’’ explained Sinead.

“I worked out that this week it will be exactly 10 months since the floods and I’m only now moving back in. I really don’t want to have that experience again.

“With the resilience work I’ve had done I’m hoping that if it floods again it will be more like weeks that I will be out. I’ll be able to pump out, mop up, let it dry and get back in.

“It gives a bit of reassurance that if it happens again the impact on my home will be reduced.’’

Measures that Sinead has had installed through the flood resilience grant scheme include:

  • Concrete floor laid across the whole downstairs to replace a suspended wooden flood, finished with easily cleaned porcelain tiles to also replace the skirting boards
  • All electrical sockets moved up to above the height of the floodwater and all the electric wiring now re-routed to come down from the ceiling rather than the floor. If she floods again this should hopefully mean she won’t be looking at a complete re-wire
  • The oven in the kitchen has been moved up to counter-top level
  • All the fitted kitchen units have been replaced by concrete blockwork pillars supporting the work surface, with free-standing storage under the worktops to replace the old base units. This free standing storage can easily be removed and lifted out of harm’s way if flooding is expected, and the concrete pillars will happily withstand the water without damage
  • Plaster on the downstairs walls has been replaced by a concrete render

Sinead says that she thought long and hard about what would work best in her historic cottage, and she was keen to retain as much of its character as possible.

“One of the hardest things is deciding what to do. Everyone will have different needs and will want to look at different levels of protection. That’s where the advice and support from the flood grants team at South Lakeland District Council was so helpful.

“I got a flood survey done, which helped to clarify things and I talked it all through with the officers at SLDC and my builder, Joe Hartley from Sedbergh, who were really good and helped me to make the decisions.’’

Sinead is encouraging other residents who have faced the same situation as her to find out more about the flood grants, which are still available to anyone affected by last year’s flooding.

A special ‘Flood Fair’ is being held in Kendal this coming Saturday, October 8, where people can find out more about the support and funding still available.

The event at K Village has been organised by SLDC to help more people to apply for up to £5,000 of grants being administered by the council to install measures to protect homes and businesses from future flooding.

As well as resilience measures, such as the ones installed by Sinead, the grants can also be used for flood ‘resistance’ measures, including flood gates and flood doors, to keep the water out.

That means that even if a resident has already had repair work done to the inside of their flooded property there are still measures that can be funded through the grant scheme that can be fitted to protect homes without the need for more internal building work.

So far more than 600 applications have been made under the scheme, but with the grants still available up to the closing date in March 2017 the council is keen to ensure that as many people as possible take advantage of the funding available.

The Flood Fair on October 8 will allow people to see displays of the type of flood products available under the scheme, and representatives from the council’s flood grant team will be on hand to discuss applications and answer questions.

Suppliers of the flood products – which range from flood doors and barriers to special valves and seals – will also be represented to demonstrate how the flood protection works, and other flood support agencies including the Environment Agency, Cumbria Community Foundation, the Business Emergency Resilience Group (BERG), Red Cross and Age UK will have stands.

Sinead says anyone who hasn’t looked into the flood grants should try to go along to K Village on Saturday to find out what’s on offer.

She said: “The flood was a shock but for me the aftermath was harder, the recovery, the decisions, the time and cost – it has been very difficult and anything that makes that a bit easier, offers help with the cost and means it will be less traumatic if it should happen again has got to be worth looking at.’’

  • The Flood Fair takes place at K Village, Kendal, on Saturday, 8 October, and is open 9.30am to 5.30pm.