Businesses still reeling from storm damage

Workers repair the gable end of the Sheraton Lodge hotel on Shaftesbury Avenue North Shore after it collapsed during last week's storm.  PIC BY ROB LOCK

Workers repair the gable end of the Sheraton Lodge hotel on Shaftesbury Avenue North Shore after it collapsed during last week's storm. PIC BY ROB LOCK 19-2-2014

Businesses battered by last week’s storms are facing up to a huge clear-up operation seven days on and counting the costs of the damage.

Rob Devey spoke to some of those affected to find out how they have been coping.

“It’s like one of those TV challenge programmes like Challenge Anneka,” says Hagop Tchobanian of the task facing him and his staff in getting their restaurant back up and running.

The Beach House on Blackpool promenade was one of the buildings left devastated by the 90mph winds which hit the resort last Wednesday evening. It is thought the insurance claim could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds

The north and west-facing windows were shattered in the storm and water came into the building, destroying the flooring. Power remains down and Mr Tchobanian admits he has yet to dare look at the roof to check it is still intact.

Once the flooring has been removed checks of the underfloor heating will need to be made to see if it has been affected by the water. The cavity wall insulation will also need to be examined to make sure it is all still intact.

But Mr Tchobanian is aiming to get the place back to normal by Easter and in the meantime Blackpool FC has stepped in to host the restaurant’s Valentine’s night bookings, dinner service on Friday and Saturday nights and even a birthday party in a couple of weeks.

Contractors have been in and out of the Blackpool Council owned building to price up the work and the 15 staff who work at the Beach House out of season have all been coming in to work as normal to help clear up the mess.

“It’s quite a traumatic time but everyone has mucked in and rolled their sleeves up,” says Mr Tchobanian, who only opened the restaurant a year ago.

“When we came back to look the following morning there was all this damage and a couple of inches of standing water - it was not nice at all and quite life-shattering.

“But we’ve now done as much as we can with the help of all the staff and it will be down to the expertise of the contractors.

“We’ve really grateful for the help we’ve had from everyone here and from Blackpool FC, and for the understanding we’ve had from our customers.

“We are aiming to get everything refurbished by Easter, which is ambitious, but you have to set a target.”

A three-tonne tree smashed through the staff office at West Park Kindergarten, a day nursery for under-5s based in the grounds of Blackpool Cricket Club at Stanley Park.

It took out a brick wall between the cricket ground and West Park Drive before crashing into the office.

The tree went through the top of the wall and part of the roof, wrecking two computers and equipment including a washing machine, microwave and fridges.

Owner Debbie Easter estimates the damage to items in the room will alone amount to more than £2,000 before the costs of repairing the office, which is owned the cricket club, are taken into account.

“We are just so lucky the tree came through the office,” she says.

“It is completely separate from the nursery area which meant the children would not have been at risk had they been there. But if it had come down while one of us was in the office it could have killed someone.

“I had left at about 6.15pm and got a call from someone at the cricket club to tell me what had happened about an hour later.

“I came back but there was not a lot I could do and the fire service said the same when I rang.”

The nursery, which looks after around 45 children every day, has not been forced to close by the incident. Staff moved the youngsters to rooms at both the cricket club and Blackpool Sports Centre until a crane removed the tree on Tuesday lunchtime and the building was declared safe to be used again.

“We could have closed but we didn’t want to let parents down,” says Mrs Easter. “We staff are now just using a little corner of the baby room.

“The older children understand what has happened and we took them outside to watch the crane moving the tree from a safe distance. They found it all quite exciting.

“Nobody wants something like this to happen but we’ve not been affected as badly as some people.”

Blackpool Council yesterday confirmed that Anchorsholme Library will be closed for four weeks after storm damage left a gaping hole in the roof.

The entire roof needs to be replaced and the building also needs redecorating after water got in through the hole, ruining the carpet.

Fortunately the books and computers were not affected. Work will begin on Monday and is expected to take around four weeks. In the meantime books can be returned to any of the other Blackpool libraries, which can all be used by people who would normally go to Anchorsholme Library.

Other council-owned buildings which needed repairs included Festival House, next to The Beach House, which suffered damage to windows, forcing the closure of the tourist information centre last Thursday. Weddings were unaffected.

The Layton Depot Waste Transfer Station, which is now used only for storage, needs repairs to its roof, while roller shutter doors were damaged at the Bristol Avenue tip and the illuminations depot.

A council spokeswoman said it was too early to put a figure on the total cost of the damage to its buildings as quotes were still being obtained.




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