Thames Water flood update: making waves and treading water

News flash! Half Moon Lane almost flooded again last week, causing traders huge anxiety.

As unwelcome waters continue to lap at our shores, we thought it was time for an update on the Thames Water flood situation.

As you will have seen in yesterday's Evening Standard, local traders are still battling to stay afloat because of losses caused by the flood,

With just 15 days left on its crowdfunding page, time is running out for our beloved Cafe Prov - the business's insurance only covered 50% of the phenomenal clean-up and restoration costs caused by the flood - Thames Water assured us that any uninsured losses would be covered, but has since refused to offer reimbursement for flood-related costs, meaning Adam is now saddled with a £30k debt, caused solely by the flood, which makes business continuation almost impossible. 

The story was the same for Number 22, which was forced to close its doors just weeks after its fantastic re-opening - Thames Water originally awarded Chris £10K per month for the first 9 months of closure as business interruption (and put that in writing) but then when they paid his re-instatement costs they reduced this by £90K saying that Business Interruption was still being calculated. Thames Water therefore left Chris £90K out of pocket and unable to pay the builders, HMRC & rent - forcing him into liquidation.

At Tales on Moon Lane, Tamara is still frustratingly far away from reaching an insurance settlement - she has been passed from pillar to post for months on end by successive loss assessors, none of whom seem able to reach agreement about the correct figure owed to the business as compensation. The stress of this has been acute and far-reaching, and even when the insurance situation is settled, there will be significant uninsured losses and flood-related costs being borne by the company.

Artemidorus is out of pocket significantly and has still not received insurance compensation;  Merry Go Round was forced to close permanently after the flood; The Half Moon Pub remains closed for the foreseeable future, a mouldering and vacant grot spot where once was a vibrant community hub; Duo Dance is out of pocket by multiple thousands; the Half Moon Dental Practice has not yet received any compensation and has had to service significant loans to stay afloat because of the flood.  The list goes on and on.

Since the flood occurred, the Herne Hill Forum has taken an active role in trying to secure just compensation for affected businesses and the area.  The Forum was instrumental in securing an initial pot of £100k compensation, for traders to invest in local initiatives to re-launch Half Moon Lane following months of devastated trade.  This funding is being invested in initiatives such as the new tree illuminations on Half Moon Lane, the lamp post banners, an art installation soon to appear below the Herne Hill bridge, and PR profiles for all affected traders which are launching soon.  However, this fund does not directly address the losses still being borne by individual traders.  To tackle this, the Herne Hill Forum is now actively pursuing Thames Water on behalf of the flood-affected traders, for rightful compensation to cover:

  • Uninsured losses directly linked to the flood
  • Loss assessor fees  
  • Excess payments on insurance policies
  • Insurance policy inflation (lots have doubled or trebled since the flood)
  • Interest payments and finance fees on personal loans taken out because of the flood
  • Flood-related costs from e.g. drying machines, cleaning out premises, storage and removal of stock
We have requested immediate action by Thames Water and their loss adjustor, Cunningham Lindsey, and have invited them to meet with traders in early September to discuss this fully and in person.  In response, as in the Evening Standard article, Thames Water have flashed some big numbers around, intent on impressing upon us the value of their response to the flood.  Our reaction to these figures, and to Thames Water's refusal to provide just compensation, is as follows:
  • That 50% of claims (27 out of 58) remain unsettled more than two years after the flood demonstrates how much Thames Water's burst pipe continues to affect this community of traders.   
  • It is imperative that unresolved claims are settled asap, and we would appreciate Thames Water's assistance with this. In particular, we are keen to understand those cases where concerns have been raised about Cunningham Lindsey's processes or advice.
  • However, by no means does settling all outstanding insurance claims mean resolving this situation.
  • As Cafe Prov and Number 22 demonstrate, many insurance settlements simply do not cover the true costs and losses caused by your flood.
  • This means that once-thriving businesses are having to close their doors because they are shackled by flood-related costs, even after insurance settlements have been finalised.
  • This is a breach of Thames Water's duty of care, and a direct contradiction of Thames Water's very public promises to repair the damage caused by the flood. 
  • The £100,000 fund pledged by Thames Water represents just £1,700 for each of the 58 commercial claimants - a mere 2.5% of the £3.6m compensation fund you have owed the area. 
  • When you consider that Number 22 is now in liquidation and out of pocket by £90k; and that Cafe Prov is on the brink of closure due to ~£30k of flood-related costs, £1,700 does not seem an amount for Thames Water to be proud of. 
  • The Thames Water fund was pledged to the community of traders to help them collectively promote the area following 6-12 months of closed premises and virtually non-existent footfall. 
  • It spreads thinly across so many businesses, but is being invested in area-wide PR and promotional activities now that most shops have managed to re-open.  The fund goes no way to compensate traders directly for their individual losses. 
  • Thames Water assured traders that they would not be left out of pocket by the flood, and led them to understand that they could be approached for uninsured losses or costs once insurance claims were settled.  
  • Therefore, once outstanding claims are resolved, Thames Water's involvement does not end, but begins.  
  • Thames Water states that it 'will not donate additional funds to the area'.  We are not requesting a charitable donation, but rightful and accurate reimbursement to businesses of the costs and losses caused by your flood.  
Our local MP, Helen Hayes, is fully behind this campaign, and we have repeated our invitation to Thames Water to visit Herne Hill as a priority, as Thames Water has by no means honoured its public promises to repair the devastation caused by its flood or to help businesses to recover. 
If you would like to add your voice to this campaign, please email steve.walker@cl-uk.com and CUSTOMER.FEEDBACK@thameswater.co.uk FAO Ian Noble, IRef:1013197624 Herne Hill, requesting that Thames Water reimburses traders for uninsured losses and flood-related costs.  

In addition to driving this campaign for just settlement; and working with local traders to help oversee investment of the £100k area re-launch fund; the Herne Hill Forum and its members have also taken an active role in trying to improve the flood response mechanism, which was again shown to be severely lacking last week when the waters began again to rise.

The initial flood could have been averted by a timely Thames Water response, but warnings the night before were ignored.  Last week, an alarmingly similar situation occurred:
  • Traders reported blocked drains and a severe flood risk after water began rising up over the pavements during heavy rain. It was starting to be an exact repeat of the floods in the years before.
  • The Chair of the Herne Hill Forum, Giles Gibson contacted Southwark's out of hours emergency team, as did the team at the office of Helen Hayes M.P. Southwark's emergency service stated that this was Thames Water's problem not theirs, and also stated that their emergency team would not come out and clear the drains while it was raining. Thames Water stated that it was Southwarks responsibility. Meanwhile the flood waters contibued to rise.
  • After Giles argued with them for a while, they agreed to look into the situation.  Additonal pressure was put on them by the team at Helen Hayes office.
  • Thames Water and Southwark seemed unable to agree whose responsibility blocked drains are - and unable to explain why routine maintenance of drains and gullies is so inadequate that any whiff of rain seems to lead to a very real flood threat. 
If you would like to support this related campaign for better drain management, please keep a lookout for any remedial action that is being taken in the area – any signs of drain clearance etc by either Southwark operatives or Thames Water. We are keen to follow through on this, as it is a classic example of two large organisations passing the buck and singularly failing to deal with a simple issue that they are both aware of. The £10 million award winning flood alleviation scheme that was installed by Thames Water is no use wahtsoever if the gullies in the road are blocked.

So, while the flood seems a long way behind us, it is still a very real problem in our midst, and one that we're tackling hard together... 

Comments

Contacted Thames Water 2 weeks ago - sending a photo - as a manhole cover on Dulwich Road was up and the drain was absolutely full even though there had been very little rain. Man hole cover replaced but not sure if anything else done