Storm Desmond: business leader warns firms may leave Cumbria

A Cumbrian business leader has warned that businesses may leave the county after the devastation caused by flooding in the wake of Storm Desmond.

Cumbria Chambers of Commerce chief executive Rob Johnston called for more flood defence work to stop a repeat of the damage caused this week and by previous flooding in 2009. He says some businesses may even leave the UK to locate in places less likely to be affected by environmental issues.

It is believed around 400 businesses have been affected directly or indirectly by the latest storms and reports suggest some did not adequately insure themselves after the last floods. The effects of the storm illustrate that business insurance, whether office insurance or landlords insurance, remains absolutely vital.

It is estimated that insurers will pay out up to £325 million to cover the damage caused to flooded businesses. According to PwC, the 2009 Cumbrian floods cost the insurance industry around £175 million.

Mr Johnston told Sky News that he feared companies would relocate to more secure areas in the future, unless action was taken to improve Cumbria’s - and the wider UK's - ability to withstand severe flooding.

He said: "That is not just for Cumbria, that is for the whole of the UK, and these companies will go offshore. We have to have an infrastructure that is fit for purpose.”

Mr Johnston, whose organisation represents 1,500 businesses in the county, said that a huge cross-section of sectors had been hit by the floods, from suppliers to tourist companies preparing for the Christmas holiday season.