OWNERS of a Northumberland farming tourist attraction decimated by flood damage eight months ago have hit out over delays in insurance payments.
Helen and Simon Henderson set up The Fenton Centre on the farm on which they are tenant near Wooler in 2005.
It educates visitors on farming and the environment and attracts around 18,000 visitors a year.
Last September the visitor centre was left under two and a half feet of water when the River Till just over a kilometre away burst its banks.
The floods also damaged the couple’s home and equipment on the 600-acre arable West Fenton farm. The centre had to be closed for repairs, as the flood water caused lower sections of plaster walls to collapse, got into interactive displays, and destroyed kitchen equipment and stock in the cellar.
Its one full-time and eight part-time staff had to be laid off.
Mr and Mrs Henderson, 45 and 44 respectively, had to wait three months for the building to dry out.
In January the couple had builders in to carry out repairs and the centre re-opened in time for Easter, with five staff. But the facility’s re-emergence is no thanks to insurance company Towergate AIUA, the farming division of Norwich Union, the couple say.
The Hendersons, who have two sons, have buildings and contents cover for the farm and centre which they presumed covered them for all eventualities.
But after the flooding they were told they were not covered for damage to the centre’s contents, estimated at £50,000. And it was not until a meeting with a loss adjustor on Wednesday that they were told for definite they will be paid for damage to the building, totaling around £150,000.
The couple are angry they are yet to receive a penny from the insurers eight months on from the floods and that it has taken this long just to get confirmation of what they will receive.
The Hendersons had to cash in their pensions and use their savings to revive the centre when the insurance payout was not forthcoming. They say no work would have taken place up to now and that the centre would be unlikely to open this year if they had waited for the company to pay out. But they say they could not afford not to put their own money on the line as they did not want to miss out on a summer of takings from the centre, especially as they rely on this income to keep their farm business going over the winter.
Mrs Henderson also relies on money from the centre to fund a food production company she runs, making pates and terrines which she sells at farmers markets. She said last night said: “You can not go nine months waiting for a decision on what is going to happen. A lot of businesses would have gone bust in that time. We were lucky we had the money behind us, otherwise it would have been the end of our centre and possibly our farming business.”
Last night, a spokesman for Towergate said the delays had been caused by Mrs Henderson’s failure to provide all the information needed to process her claim, such as receipts.
He said enough information has been received to make an interim payment, which should be done within seven days, but that more is needed.
The spokesman said: “They have not been able to proceed at the pace they would normally like to.”