MINEHEAD is open for business was the message from residents, shops and bed and breakfast owners as the Somerset Chamber of Commerce announced the early economic impact of flooding in Somerset.

According to the Chamber, flooding has so far cost local businesses an average of £17, 352.

A ‘snapshot survey’ the group carried out estimates that £1.23m has been lost in just six weeks in finance terms and lost productivity. Some 170 businesses were asked, with 71 responses but many said it was too early to gauge the impact.

However, the Chamber added figures would only increase the longer the flooding remained.

Steven Jackson, who runs Jacks Toy Shop in Minehead, was one of the businesses who took part in the survey.

He spoke to the County Gazette on Tuesday and said that because footfall had been down in recent weeks, so had takings.

“It’s not so much the flooding that’s affected us; it’s more the lack of people coming to Minehead because they think that the whole of Somerset is flooded.

“Even today, at least 50% of the people walking around town are wearing wellies; you don’t see that even when it rains.

“We’ve got a Butlin’s here which means there are always people coming because they’ve pre-booked but there’s still a lack of day visitors and people walking around the town.

“The sunshine today and on Sunday has been helpful but, if the rain continues, it is a worry because takings are drastically down.

“We rely more on the weather climate than the economic one.”

Bryan Leaker, who runs The Park Guest House, in Minehead, said he had had too many cancellations over the past couple of weeks with more coming in.

Mr Leaker added: “The problem is, many of our bookings are made through other websites online which means we never get to talk to many of the customers cancelling to explain that we are very much open and not flooded.

“Everyone assumes the Somerset Levels being flooded means the whole of the county is flooded; the District Council and the County Council should be doing more to promote everything that is going on.

“There’s lots going on in Minehead for visitors, especially this week, we have the Winter Festival, there’s stuff on at the Regal Theatre and it’s a beautiful sunny day.

“They need to re-address what they’re doing, they aren’t helping themselves in the long run by not promoting what is happening.”

Cream Cafe had to cancel their Open Mic night last Friday due to flooding affecting staffing numbers and only a few weeks ago West Somerset College had to cancel their theatre production at the Regal Theatre because of the storms.

Cllr Justine Baker was invited to open the revamped indoor market in Minehead on Saturday, she has been helping with the community group FLAG. She said: “The market has been a focal point for the town for a long time.

“We all need to get across the message that Somerset is very much still open for business, as the last thing we want is businesses losing out due the impact it will have on local economy which won’t help the situation at all.

“I hope people realise that the majority of places are still open and that people come and visit.”

Mr Leaker added: “We want everyone to know that Minehead is well and truly open for business.”