Sky-high business premiums ‘can make having insurance pointless’

David Long of The Climbing Lab
David Long of The Climbing Lab
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Businesses ruined by floods in Leeds have called for an overhaul of the insurance system amid claims sky high premiums make taking out protection pointless.

Dozens of businesses suffered losses totalling millions of pounds when the River Aire burst its banks after reaching record levels on Boxing Day.

Some had insurance protection, others were unable to obtain cover and many have struggled to get the pay-outs from their insurers.

Among those which were not covered was The Climbing Lab, a new state-of-the-art climbing facility at Kirkstall industrial park that was due to open last weekend but sustained tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Manager David Long said the cost of obtaining flood insurance made it unfeasible.

He said: “For some of the smaller, independent businesses like ours it’s more expensive to take out the insurance than to accept the cost of the damage in the event of a flood happening every few years.

“We are going to set aside money for a flood recovery pot out of any of the profits we make.

“There are a couple of other business that had flood insurance who may now have to move out because they won’t be able to get insurance again.”

Mr Long called for government action to put pressure on insurers to make premiums more affordable.

He said: “I would like to see a similar piece of legislation to what the government has put in place to make residential insurance affordable, especially for small and medium sized businesses.”

Matthew Pedder, of Tyrannosaurus Pets, had to move the business from Kirkstall to Headingley because of flooding.

He said he was told the premiums are cheaper at the new location because of the flood risk in Kirkstall, even though the business wasn’t covered in the event of a flood.

“The woman at the insurance company said we were due a rebate because Headingley isn’t in a flood risk area, whereas Kirkstall is – even though we didn’t have flood insurance in Kirkstall,” he said.

“That suggests they build in the fact that you’re in a flood area to the premium, even when they won’t cover you for flooding.

“The whole system needs an overhaul.”

Mr Pedder said if all businesses paid a little more for insurance, it would cover anyone hit by flooding.

“Otherwise, if they aren’t prepared to insure certain areas, you’ll get great swathes of the country which are unusable, where no-one will set up businesses and no-one will want to live,” he said.

The charity Age UK said its warehouse in Kirkstall – used to store donations – is set to remain closed for several weeks following the floods.

Hugh Forde, managing director of the charity’s retail arm, said: “Members of staff have been redeployed to Age UK shops in and around the Leeds area, however this flooding has also sadly affected stock, with many items being damaged.

“Age UK shops are reliant on the kind donations of the local community to keep the shelves stocked.

“People wishing to donate items should visit their local Age UK shop.”