BUSINESSES are suffering as the economic impact of storms that ravaged Dorset makes its mark.

Many small businesses say trade has plummeted as they have had to deal with flooding and high winds which has had a direct impact on the number of people going through their doors.

Restaurants and pubs have suffered with few people braving the terrible weather Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), which has nearly 700 members, has called for people to support local businesses and also issued advice for companies in the county.

Chief executive Ian Girling said: “Businesses in Dorset have shown remarkable resilience so far but the storms have made it a very challenging time.

“There have been trees down on roads and rail lines, and more flooding in coastal areas.

“Some businesses have found it difficult to make deliveries, arrange meetings, see suppliers and get out and about.

“But Dorset businesses very much remain open and I would urge people to support them with loyalty, custom and understanding as they strive to maintain services at a challenging time."

Community-spirited Londis shopkeepers in Milborne St Andrew say trade is down by 70 per cent due to the weather.

Despite this, joint managers of the store Glenn and Emma Bratley have been praised for helping villagers through the flooding and ensuring residents in Milborne St Andrew were kept supplied with essentials.

The store has now also set up a ‘delivery by welly boot’ flood service ensuring villagers can still receive their shopping.

Emma added: “Water has been reaching the steps of the store since January 4.

“Because Milton Road has been shut, people are wary about driving through flood water and if they do drive through, thinking that they cannot stop their cars to come in.

“Also, people have got into new habits of visiting different stores because of flooding and they may stick to those.”

Additionally, Nikki Bligh, landlady of the Royal Oak pub in Cerne Abbas, said the business has seen a 60 per cent drop in trade due to fewer customers.

She added: “The whole village has been affected by the two main roads in Cerne Abbas being flooded.

“This, together with weather warnings to not to drive through flood water and to take care, has understandably caused people to be wary when heading out.

“This especially applies to the older generation which is our primary market.”

Jackie Saunders of the Gamekeeper pub in Charminster said she had also seen fewer customers due to people staying inside.


Waterlogged farms make work doubly difficult

Farmers have also battled persistent severe weather which has left fields waterlogged, barns damaged and cattle forced to find emergency shelter.

County advisor for the National Farmers’ Union, Matt Uren, said he was aware of groundwater flooding for many farmers making it difficult for them to work.
He added: “It depends on the type of ground farmers have as to how quickly they get back on their feet, for example chalky fields will take a certain time to dry out but heavy clay soiled lands will be damp for longer.

“Farmers in Dorset are very conscious of fellow farmers who may be suffering and are eager to help.”
West Dorset farmer Judi James, pictured, from Littlebredy, said she has had to move her livestock of 60 calves from Higher Kingston Russell, Dorchester, to emergency cover because they have been up to their knees in flood water.

She added: “I had to move them to a barn with tin roofing but even then I’ve had sheets of roofing flying off due to the wind.

“Farming is of course a lifestyle choice but there becomes a point when you get quite jaded after battling severe weather like this for so long. You have to keep going with fingers crossed it will change.”


Support from the Government

The Government has announced further support for businesses in areas affected by flooding.
Building on last week’s package of support for businesses and households, the Prime Minister announced:

  • A new Business Support Scheme worth up to £10million to provide hardship funding for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. .
  • Extra time for businesses to file accounts without any penalties. If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension .
  • A Government Business Support Helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. The Helpline will offer a free one hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now.

Neil Eames, Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses Wessex Region, said:  “Further financial support for small firms is good news, and builds on the help announced last week.

“With the floods across our region yet to abate, we want the level of support to be kept under review. 

“Firms in affected areas in Dorset and Hampshire, will take months to get back on their feet.

“We want the Government and the insurance industry to look again at the scheme they have in place for households in these areas, and see whether small businesses can be reinstated into that.’

KINDHEARTED readers have pledged more than £1000 to the Dorset Echo's Storm Aid campaign.
The Dorset Echo is working with local Rotary clubs so the money goes directly to where it is needed most.
To donate make cheques payable to Rotary International, District 1200 Charity Account and send to Flood Appeal, Dorset Echo, Fleet House, Hampshire Road, Weymouth DT4 9XD.
Donations can also be dropped off at Echo offices on the Granby Industrial Estate in Weymouth, Antelope Walk in Dorchester or the Bridport News office in East Street.