North Devon Council will explore a relief fund for those most affected by the August flash flooding in Barnstaple and the surrounding areas.

Flooding in and around the Square in Barnstaple. Picture: Simon ElleryFlooding in and around the Square in Barnstaple. Picture: Simon Ellery

The council’s strategy and resources committee looked at options to help residents when it met virtually on Monday (October 5).

The town was hit by flash flooding on August 17 and saw more than 100 homes and businesses affected after torrential rain resulted in as much as 3ft of water in places.

Councillors agreed to set up a relief package for residents experiencing hardship as a result of the floods on August 17 by using councillor community grant funds as the main source of funding.

It came after they backed away from initial proposals to divert up to £30,000 of the council’s Covid-19 hardship fund – which is in place for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic – to flood victims.

A report to councillors set out a package which would see two levels of grant provided from the Covid fund, with £500 for households which have incurred a significant loss of possessions or damage to property and do not have resources to replace items.

A £1,000 would be available for cases where there was also an immediate health and wellbeing risk, with grants administered by One Barnstaple and North Devon Homes housing officers.

Council chief executive Ken Miles warned members the Covid-19 hardship fund was not likely to be replaced once it had been used.

He added: “We are talking about a one-off event but we have had flooding in North Devon before and we are likely to again.

“We are not going to be in a position to provide a level of funding or assistance in the future and doing this creates a precedent.”

Councillor Caroline Leaver was one of those councillors in favour of providing relief.

She said: “For me its very much a matter of priorities. This committee approved £92,000 to buy blue plastic boxes to put glass in.

“Whichever budget the money comes from to fund this, ultimately it comes from tax payers’ pockets and if we can’t support people in these extremely difficult circumstances, what are we here for?”

Braunton ward member, Councillor Liz Spear said Braunton and Wrafton had never called for or received funding despite major incidents in recent years.

She said: “We’ve had some really major events with three or four feet of water that were so bad that Prince Charles saw it was right for him to come and visit us, which we appreciated. This is Covid money and I believe it should remain so.”

On using councillor grant money, Councillor Malcolm Prowse said: “We need to make sure it’s a one-off thing dealt with by one-off Barnstaple money, as it were, and there are obviously existing hardship mechanisms we have got.

“We’ve got to be grown up about how we fund it, and the community council grants will go a long way to providing the money needed, along with the existing hardship funds.”