Newry businesses thinking of re-locating due to further flood risk and no support package

It’s almost one week since a devastating flood destroyed around 80 business in Newry. For days business owners have waited for a rescue package to cover the repair costs. Reality, they say, is slowly sinking in. There may not be any funding to fix the damage.

Those worst affected don’t have insurance either because they are located close to the city’s canal and river. Council workers have brought skips, found empty premises for storage and tried to rally around businesses, but money is what they really need. Michael Nugent, who owns the Nugleato chain, told UTV: “We need some support, the area has been decimated. Jobs are at risk, we’re getting no business and there’s no money coming in. “If it is a big job we may have to relocate and at this juncture, we’re actually considering relocating to the likes of Dundalk where I know the government will support.” Under the Northern Ireland Flood Risk Management Plan (2021-2027), DFI Rivers and Newry, Mourne & Down Council agreed to ensure the canal level is lowered prior to a risk of flooding in the city. UTV asked if this was done. In response, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said : “The water levels in the Newry Canal were managed on Monday 30 October 2023, in line with normal operating procedures to ensure that the maximum amount of water could flow through Victoria Lock whilst remaining effective against tidal surges. “Given the unprecedented amount of rain that fell over the period and given that the Clanrye River itself flooded into the Canal, it is not surprising that canal infrastructure was overwhelmed beyond its capability. “During the whole period, both prior to and during the flooding, the Council and DfI Rivers worked in close liaison to manage water levels in the Newry Canal.” A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “The Department understands that the water levels in the Newry Canal were managed on Monday 30th October 2023 by Newry and Mourne District Council in line with normal operating procedures to ensure that the maximum amount of water could flow through Victoria Lock whilst remaining effective against tidal surges. “During the whole period both prior to and during the flooding we worked in close liaison with council who managed the water levels in the Newry Canal.” There is mounting pressure for the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to step in with a rescue package. Until such time, businesses in Sugar Island are considering re-locating elsewhere in the city, or out of Newry altogether.

A joint letter from the five main political parties was issued on Monday evening saying that "the extensive flooding that has affected many areas here over the past week has caused widespread damage and devastation for businesses and homes. "Without immediate support and financial assistance, the damage and loss of business could lead to closures and job losses. "Repairing the extensive damage caused by flooding is also a massive financial pressure for families already suffering the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. "Communities, businesses, and families need immediate help but given the precarious financial position of local Departments, this requires additional funding. "As leaders of the main political parties, we would urge you to immediately request from the Treasury and specific to this weather event, additional resources for an emergency relief scheme to assist local householders and businesses, and to protect jobs and community facilities. "Collectively, we should spare no effort to protect vulnerable businesses, families and communities facing this enormous and unforeseen financial pressure.

In a statement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris said:

"The floods across Northern Ireland last week have been devastating for those affected.

"Whilst this is directly a matter for the relevant NI departments, we will continue to engage with them and Northern Ireland's parties on the communities impacted.

"We stand ready to support and provide assistance where possible. We continue to work very closely with the Northern Ireland Civil Service to get the best information on the scale of the impact and to explore options to support businesses which have been hit by flooding, and we are in touch with the NI Parties on this.

"Meanwhile, we are continuing to do everything we can to facilitate the return of locally elected, accountable and effective devolved government, which is the best way for Northern Ireland to be governed. Discussions with the Northern Ireland Parties are ongoing, with a focus on encouraging a return of the Executive as soon as possible."

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