More than 900 applications have been made in South Lakeland under a £5,000 grant scheme to install measures to protect homes and businesses from future flooding.
So far £1.9 million of improvements have been approved. Latest figures show 762 applications have been received for residential properties and 177 applications for businesses in the district.
In South Lakeland a total of 2,358 properties were flooded in December 2015. Of those it is estimated that around 1,900 meet the eligibility criteria for the £5,000 grant scheme.
The scheme, which is being administered locally by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), runs until 31 March 2017, and the council is keen to ensure that as many people as possible take advantage of the funding available before the closing date.
Councillor Sue Sanderson, SLDC’s portfolio holder for Council Organisation and People, said: “The £5,000 grant scheme announced by the government runs until the end of March, so anyone who hasn’t applied still has time and the grant could really help you to protect your home or business.
“We have had a team of officers working on this scheme for a year now and they can explain everything you need to know about the grants, eligibility and what sort of things you could get funding for. We realise that most people who suffered flooding in December 2015 will be back in their homes by now and may not welcome the prospect of any further disruption, but there are a number of measures that can still be put in that won’t be too disruptive – for example installing flood gates to exterior doors, or fitting air brick covers or non-return valves to prevent sewage backing up into a property. All these things can be done to reduce the impact of any future flooding and won’t mean any significant interior building work.’’
Under the scheme, grants of up to £5,000 are being offered to South Lakeland homeowners and businesses flooded in December 2015 to install measures to protect properties against future flooding.
The grants are intended only to fund additional measures which improve the property’s future protection or resistance to flooding, over and above any repairs to flooded properties that would normally be covered by insurance.
To raise awareness of the scheme the council has already written directly to every flood affected property twice with information about the flood grants, has created a dedicated information section on its website while several articles about the grants have featured in the local press, in the last three edition of the council’s own newspaper delivered to every home in the district, as well as items on TV and radio.
Council officers have attended flood engagement events to give advice about flood grants, including ones organised by the Environment Agency and local community groups, and the council held its own flood fair event at K Village in Kendal in October.
Through the Community Flood Recovery Group officers have briefed and shared information about flood grants through numerous voluntary and third sector organisations working with communities and businesses on flood recovery, including Age UK, Red Cross and the Federation for Small Business and have provided training for voluntary groups and local councillors to help residents apply for grants.
Council officers are also continuing to hold weekly drop-in sessions at Kendal Town Hall on Wednesdays between 1.30pm and 5.30pm (until the end of March) to offer advice and support to flood grant applicants. The community enterprise group New Ground has been engaged to knock on doors in areas where there has been a low take-up of the grants to encourage people to apply and look at ‘whole community’ resilience and resistance solutions and the BERG unit in Kendal is continuing to offer a service to support flood grant applicants.
The council has also moved to reassure any residents concerned by recent national media reports that claimed some councils involved in the administration of the flood grant scheme have not been checking the quality of the products used or the standard of installation.
Councillor Sanderson continued: “At SLDC we made a decision that we would only authorise the installation of BSI kitemarked flood products in South Lakeland, and we also audit installation work and make checks to ensure measures are fitted correctly and require a sign-off from the householder that they are happy before we make any payments.
“SLDC has also always insisted on two quotes for the work to ensure that the householder is getting the best value and they are getting the maximum benefit from the grant.
“We have always made it our priority to ensure that the measures being installed will be effective and that the householder or business will be better protected in the event of future flooding. This has sometimes meant the process has taken a little longer, but we have been determined to do the job properly and get the best solutions for our communities and we make no apologies for being diligent and thorough.
“By taking this approach not only are we doing the right thing by our residents and businesses but we are also getting the best value out of the grant monies available. We have also been able to spot when people are attempting to abuse the system, and we are currently investigating four cases where potentially fraudulent applications have been made.
“Our officers have worked extremely hard for these past 12 months to inform, advise and support residents and businesses to access this grant. I would urge anyone who has yet to do so to get in touch before the deadline at the end of March to find out how it could benefit them.’’
For more information about the flood grants, see: http://www.southlakeland.gov.uk/flooding-help-and-advice/