Closure of A591 estimated to cost Lake District tourist economy around £100 million
Local MP Tim Farron has criticized the government’s response following the flood damage in Lancashire and Cumbria caused by the Storm Desmond during December as being “woefully inadequate” and highlighted the absence of commitment to reopen the A591 before the end of May.
If the road remains closed as expected until May, it is estimated the cost to the local economy will be around £100 million.
Mr Farron pointed out that when the Dawlish railway line in the South-West flooded in 2014, a 300-strong Network Rail team rebuilt the track at a cost of £35 million in just over 50 days. In Cumbria, 53 days have already passed since the A591 was first destroyed.
Speaking following David Cameron’s visit to Grasmere on 28 January, when the Prime Minister announced a £3 million package of funding to help repair the Lake District following the damage caused by flooding, Mr Farron said;
“When I heard that the Prime Minister was coming, I was genuinely hopeful that this would bring good news for the area. However, instead of bringing his cheque book, he seems only to have remembered his small change.
“Of course the extra funding for infrastructure and tourism promotion is welcome. But it is woefully inadequate given the scale of the problems we are facing. There is a £460 million shortfall in the funding required to repair flood-damaged roads and bridges across Cumbria. Cameron’s £3 million is nothing but a token gesture, which will leave local residents, businesses and councils to pick up the lion’s share of the bill.
“If Mr Cameron really wanted to help promote tourism in the area then he would have committed proper amounts of funding to help get the A591 reopened before Easter. Instead, he wants to chase cheap headlines by giving token sums of money. Various ministers and now even the Prime Minister have visited the A591, but very little real help has been delivered – local people feel very let down”.
Since the first storm damage occurred in early December the Government has announced various aid packages including a £50 million fund to help families, businesses and communities severely affected by the flooding. Included within the relief package is £11 million specifically targeted at an estimated 2,500 small businesses which have suffered serious damage and disruption.