SIX months on from the floods that put Tadcaster bridge out of use, Vice-Chair David Kerfoot, MBE, reflects on the humbling community spirit shown by Tadcaster, continuing to bring footfall to the town, and the positive impact rebuilding and improving the bridge will have for the community and local businesses.
"SUNSHINE and smiling faces greeted me when I returned to Tadcaster recently, five months on from the Christmas floods. It was in stark contrast to the general state of shock that hit me when I visited as the clear-up was just getting started in the immediate aftermath.
I want to take the opportunity to reflect on the true Yorkshire grit and determination the flooding in Tadcaster brought out, plus tell you what the Local Enterprise Partnership is doing to help the town come back stronger than ever. Perhaps more important than anything, I want to get the message across that Tadcaster is open for business. In fact, many of the businesses were open within a couple of days of the floods. Whilst the floods may seem like a distant memory for those of us fortunate enough to watch them only on the news, for the businesses and organisations affected, they are still very much on their minds.
Which is why last month I was back in Tadcaster with the team from How’s Business, the service established by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership to help business owners. Their Popup Business Café concept proved the ideal way to bring business owners together with local business experts. The majority of the discussions weren’t about responding to floods, they were about doing better businesses, particularly getting more customers. Something many of us need advice on now and then, especially when we’re up against it.
I really want to pay tribute to the resilience of the small business community on Tadcaster’s High Street, or Bridge Street to give it it’s proper name. One of the things that hit me when I stood on the banks of the river, by the broken bridge, was the enormity of it. How people coped was really quite incredible.
Being there in the aftermath, I was determined that we would roll up our sleeves and help them get straight. So we helped right there and then, we helped again recently and we will help in the future, by providing investment to build a better new bridge.
I was delighted to hear from the business owners how much they appreciated our team going door to door making sure people knew what financial help they could get. I understand this led to almost 100 per cent take-up. A fantastic result. The team were also first out the door with a social media campaign telling the fabulous stories of businesses like Allen’s Ironmongers and Bridge Street Dental who pulled out all the stops to re-open. Their #openforbusiness campaign was picked up by many others and the message amplified – a much needed pick-up and show of support for all those that had got through those difficult days. But we can’t forget. We still need to get the message out there that the town continues to thrive, not just survive, particularly since the temporary footbridge reconnected the two halves of the community.
As a token of my admiration for the spirit of the townsfolk, I was able to invite some of the fantastic community organisers to a Buckingham Palace garden party. A great way to make use of my role as Deputy Lieutenant! They really deserved it for getting stuck into everything from marshalling skips to setting up information websites and working every hour god sent.
However, there still remains plenty yet to do. Obviously the opening of the pedestrian bridge has been a big help, but we have to keep helping by saying Tadcaster is open, it is a vibrant town, it’s got a lot to offer, it needs the footfall: please come!
One of the big things we have been able to do is provide an extra £1,200,000 of funding for the bridge, on top of the funds that came from Government. This means that the rebuilt bridge will be better than before and will really help bind the two halves of the town together. Our investment will provide wider footpaths and better lighting. They didn’t plan for modern modes of conveyance when it was built in the 18th century. The old footpath was squeezed in between the road and parapet, and was incredibly narrow. It was a perilous crossing for anyone, let alone mums with pushchairs or users of mobility scooters, which must have affected footfall either side. When the new bridge is finished it will actually be much better than before.
In every crisis comes an opportunity, so it’s fantastic that thanks to our help the new bridge will be far more functional, whilst maintaining its listed character. Ultimately it all goes back to boosting business on Bridge Street and helping Tadcaster return stronger and more united than ever.
I’ve been profoundly impressed by the spirit of Tadcaster. It’s a great little town, and I’m proud we have been able to help."
Tadcaster’s 18th century listed bridge collapsed after Christmas due to the force of flood water, cutting the town in two
North Yorkshire County Council set up a shuttle bus service to get people from one side of the town to the other
The County Council opened a temporary footbridge to reconnect the town on February 12th with the help of £300,000 Government funding
The main bridge is expected to be rebuilt within 12 months
The Government has pledged £3 million for the bridge reconstruction
The LEP has contributed a further £1.4 m for the bridge to be widened and strengthened