Business owners and managers in Bradford on Avon say they were just left to ‘fend for themselves’ during last week’s floods which disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

Over the weekend, there was a massive mopping up and drying out exercise going on in business premises around the town centre to clear up the mess and reopen for trade.

This week, some of the businesses most affected by the floods were critical of what they say was a lack of practical help and support offered by both the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council.

Fiona Leach, who owns four retail shops in Bradford on Avon town centre, said: “We did not get any help. No-one from the council came to see us or to help us clean up.

“Clearing the drains would help and supplying sandbags to everybody who needed them. If you don’t clear the drains then that is going to make a major problem much worse.

“I think they could have been a lot more helpful. It would have made a lot of difference to several businesses if we had sandbags.”

Community emergency volunteers helping Bradford on Avon Town Council to control the road closures stopped cars but allowed delivery vans and lorries to continue through.

Mrs Leach added: “Closing the road to all traffic except for emergency service vehicles would also have helped.

“Some delivery drivers were seen ignoring the ‘road closed’ and ‘flood’ signs or were moving them aside so they could drive through.”

Wiltshire Times: The wash created by passing vehicles made matters worse during the Bradford on Avon floods. Photo: Trevor Porter 70486-13 The wash created by passing vehicles made matters worse during the Bradford on Avon floods. Photo: Trevor Porter 70486-13 (Image: Trevor Porter)

While three of her shops escaped the floods, her fourth shop Alfred’s was hit by flooding from passing vehicles that created a wash that overcame her flood defence barrier in the doorway.

“They created a tidal wave which swamped our flood defence barriers and made the situation worse,” said Mrs Leach, 67, from Bath.

Tanya Klopper, who runs the Courtyard hair salon in the Bull Pit, has been forced to close the business after it was flooded to waist-high levels.

She and her team worked over the weekend to clear up the mess from the salon left behind by the floods.

“It’s been very hard work," she said. "It is disappointing. We have had to clear everything out.

“It has crippled us this week and we’ll have to close until next Tuesday (January 16).

“We didn’t see anybody from Wiltshire Council or the Environment Agency. It just feels like we were left to fend for ourselves.”

Wiltshire Times: Flood levels drooped by several feet in a matter of a few hours. Photo: Trevor Porter 70488-3Flood levels drooped by several feet in a matter of a few hours. Photo: Trevor Porter 70488-3 (Image: Trevor Porter)

Philip Cobb, the owner of upmarket estate agents Cobb Farr, said their flood barrier managed to defend their premises from flooding but was equally critical of the lack of a flood defence barrier for the town.

“I don’t understand why they can’t put the barriers back up that they had up until about two or three years ago because it worked very successfully and they stopped a lot of water coming into the town.

“I know there has been an accident somewhere up north but you would have thought they could have come up with a solution where they could put the barriers up and stop people from standing behind them.”

Over the road, Bobby Morady, 48, at the BoA Teapot Café, said his premises had been flooded to a depth of around six to eight inches by water that came from underneath rather than through the doorway.

He said: "“We managed to bucket it out and we called a few places to find a generator and a pump but there were none available.

“But we didn’t get any help from Wiltshire Council or the Environment Agency. We asked them for some sandbags but they just said ‘sorry, we don’t have any’. 

“A few years ago they offered help but this year there was nothing. This year it was like you are on your own, good luck.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We understand the concerns of residents in Bradford on Avon over the risk of flooding and in recent days have had members of staff out and about in the town offering advice and support.

“The decision was taken in October 2022 to no longer use temporary flood barriers in the town due to the health and safety risks. But in reaching this decision, we engaged with local residents and Wiltshire Council.

“We continue to work with Wiltshire Council on designs for a flood defence scheme that would better protect more than 100 properties in the town.

"However, any such scheme is dependent upon partnership funding and to date, we have not received sufficient funding commitments to progress the scheme. We will be engaging with the Town Council over this soon.

Cllr Caroline Thomas, Wiltshire Council's Cabinet Member for Transport and Flooding, said: “The flooding that occurred last week is the worst we have experienced in Wiltshire for some years, with flooding occurring in many locations across the county, particularly in Bradford on Avon, Marlborough and Salisbury.

“Sandbags would not have been effective in preventing the large scale river flooding that effected business premises in Bradford on Avon. c

"Where properties are subject to regular flooding, we encourage property owners to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of flooding before a flooding event and make a flood plan to address their type of flooding.

"The majority of the properties in the Bull Pit area have taken the precaution of having property level flood protection fitted.

"Property owners that wish to use sandbags to prevent minor flooding need to make their own arrangements in advance to purchase sandbags and arrange for delivery from a local builders’ merchants. There is lots of advice and information about this available on the Wiltshire Council website.”

She added: “We have invested an additional £1m into emptying the 85,000 gullies we have throughout the county to help prevent flooding. People can report blocked gullies to us using MyWilts and we will investigate and take action where appropriate. In this case, the river level was so high that the gullies would have had little impact on the extent of the flooding.

“The police have the power under The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to close or authorise the highway authority to close a road, and on this occasion Wiltshire Police did close the road.

"Our highways staff put signs in place, however sadly some motorists have ignored these signs. Motorists need to be aware that failure to comply with these signs is an offence and can attract a fixed penalty fine.

“The Government has recently announced that grant funding is available for residents and businesses affected by flooding caused by Storm Henk and we are urging anyone affected to contact us at so that we can advise them on how to claim this funding.”