BUSINESSES in Appleby are fearing the worst following the announcement of flood defence works set to close the town’s car park for 17 months.

The installation of a pumping station at Broad Close car park is set to begin in Autumn, after the summer period.

Co-owner of Castle Fine Arts and Gallery, located a mere street away from the scheduled works, Mark Hilsden said after a difficult year already this might be the final nail in the coffin.  

“It’s a concern. If the car park closes and most of the local streets around the car park will be closed. I don’t know where business owners, residents, and employees will park, never mind visitors.

“If it was for a few months, we could weather the storm, but the plans have got bigger and bigger –  if it goes ahead, we would seriously consider moving to an area with higher tourist traffic,” he said.

Manager Nigel Milsom at the Tufton Arms Hotel said the local feeling that the situation is very much going to be a ‘nightmare’.

“Even if you do come to the town, you won't be able to park and two-way traffic lights will make it even harder to get in and out.

“It’s a decision that’s crept up on us. You can’t expect people to upkeep with overheads if no one is coming into the town,” he said.

The scheme is aimed to protect 64 properties in the Chapel Street and Holme Street area following the submersion of the town during the 2015 floods.

READ MORE: Appleby Mayor and long-term councillor resign

Mr Milsom echoed sentiments by the community that it may have been cheaper and less invasive to create individual flood defences to homes in the surrounding area.

In Cumbria: Rescuers patrol Appleby after floods in 2015Rescuers patrol Appleby after floods in 2015 (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said they aim to reduce the length of the car park closure and aim towards a ‘phased return’ of the car park.

Sharon Kennedy, Cumbria flood risk manager for the Environment Agency said: “We understand why local people are concerned about the closure. We estimate that the car park will be closed for 17 months.  We are also looking to reduce this time through improvements in our programme, such as opportunities to have a phased return of parts of the car park.

“The increase in time the car park needs to be closed is based on the small size of the car park and the complex construction that need to be done in order to complete the scheme which will better protect 64 properties and businesses.

"We are due to start our work in Autumn 2023. Our work is planned so that we can avoid any construction works in the summer 2023 period and maintain the use of Broad Close car park. By moving the start date to Autumn 2023, we have reduced the impact on the town of construction works taking place over two summers to one.

"We are developing a designated website page on The Flood Hub for Appleby which will contain the most up to date detailed information on the scheme. This will be live from early Spring. We will also host an information drop-in event for residents and business owners in early Spring 2023," she said.