Hastings flooding: Business leader says town centre floods were 'disaster waiting to happen'

A business leader has said today’s major flooding incident in Hastings town centre was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ as shops are left counting the cost.
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John Bownas, manager of Love Hastings Ltd, said virtually every business in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre was affected.

Major flooding hit the town today (January 16), causing the centre and Alexandra Park to be closed to the public.

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Mr Bownas said: “Virtually every business in Priory Meadow was affected, with Primark’s ground floor totally flooded and reports of water pouring out from Boots. Outside the centre any shop with a basement in the lower part of Queens Road, Station Road or Wellington Place will have seen significant damage. I spoke to Bar Moda, Subway, Smokemart, Millets, and Lloyds Bank among others and they are all just starting to count the cost.

Flooding in Hastings town centre on January 16 2023.Flooding in Hastings town centre on January 16 2023.
Flooding in Hastings town centre on January 16 2023.

"Today's flooding has been a disaster waiting to happen for several years now ever since the outflow pipe on the beach in front of The Carlisle was damaged and allowed to become blocked by shingle.

"People living in South Terrace have reported being flooded several times in the past two years, and it can't be a coincidence that this ties in with when the pipe became blocked.

“That pipe is the responsibility of Southern Water, but it took until a couple of months ago to get this acknowledged and to accept that it links back to pipework running from Alexandra Park, along South Terrace, under the shopping centre, and finally down to the beach.

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“Once they had finally understood the issue, Southern Water put in the pumping system that people will have seen on that junction, but from this morning's incident it's fundamentally clear that the pumps are not up to the job of protecting homes and businesses in the town.

John BownasJohn Bownas
John Bownas

“And to make matters worse, the history of the town being flooded in the past has meant that many homes and businesses cannot get insurance, so will have to cover the cost of repairs and lost stock themselves.

“At a time when the cost of trading is higher than it has ever been, and shops are being squeezed by high inflation and customers not having the money to keep up with rising prices, this incident may be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses unless there is some form of compensation available to them."

Alex Saunders, Southern Water’s head of wastewater networks, said: “We know how distressing flooding is for householders and business owners. Months of exceptional rain have left the ground waterlogged and every fresh fall of rain has no where to go – as can be seen by the number of rivers bursting their banks. We are currently helping customers across the region deal with the aftermath of flooding by cleaning properties and using specialist drying equipment.

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“Our assets continued to work properly throughout the latest bout of floods and we’ve been using hundreds of tankers and pumps to reduce the risk of homes flooding internally. All agencies are working closely together to support victims and ensure resilience if further rain comes across the region.”