Are you ready for winter?

Who could forget last winter’s distressing images of battered coastlines, strewn with brightly coloured beach-hut debris or beaches and cliff-top paths closed to the public after severe cliff falls? Or the disturbing media images of villages isolated by torrential flooding in the Somerset Levels?

For many in the South West, last Christmas was far from merry. And with TV scenes of misery, climate change has swiftly risen up the Government’s agenda. Quite rightly, the focus is on preserving lives, but environmental hazards clearly have huge implications for the environment and businesses, not least those in tourism.

Speaking at a Climate SouthWest workshop this week entitled Are you ready for winter? Guy Parker, Flood and Coastal Risk Management Advisor for the Environment Agency warned tourism businesses of the need to be prepared – extreme rainfall and severe winter storms are forecast to increase.

With groundwater flooding at increased risk, shops, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs;, coffee houses, buses, cliff top attractions – any visitor-facing business in the area will be affected.

“The important thing is to be prepared to mitigate risks,” Mr Parker warned. “Ask yourself, are your staff fully trained? Is someone appointed as a hazard manager to take control? Do you have a communications plan for your website, media and guests? Have you checked your insurance policy?

“Too many businesses think this is expensive, but it needn’t cost anything. By having a plan in place and a list of all necessary contact numbers, a crisis can be dramatically reduced.”

The NCTA is preparing a short, straightforward toolkit designed for tourism businesses which will be available on our website. Climate SouthWest is about to publish a more detailed guide – Weathering the Storm explaining how to prepare, it will be available shortly from For more information, email Visit England also offers advice,

Emergency Planning Officers on local councils can also provide business support. There are even Government grants available to provide flood defences for businesses.

And it’s not all doom and gloom. Some events pride themselves on shining through the rain. Think Glastonbury.

By Sheron Crossman