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“Like being in the trenches”

Affected by extreme flooding conditions two years ago, Easyhire (North East)’s Hexham depot has emerged stronger than before. Alan Guthrie reports.

Easyhire (North East) Ltd’s main depot in Hexham was preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the company’s foundation in December 2015, but instead found itself amongst many businesses affected by local flooding of almost biblical proportions during the first weekend of the month. Remarkably the premises were up and running again two months later, and business has subsequently grown further, but the event provides a salutary warning to other hirers concerning unexpected incidents that can arise.

“The flooding was unprecedented,” said Director Mike Simpson, “and it resulted from a combination of factors that worsened the impact of prolonged heavy rain. A couple of years earlier, flood defences had ironically been built nearby at Corbridge, but these failed, and scaffolding that had been erected for repair work on another bridge over the River Tyne at Ovingham caused it to act like a dam. Furthermore, the massive Kielder Reservoir in Northumberland was likely to overflow and the authorities had to release water into the river, causing a surge. Our Hexham depot is 100 yards away from the banks of the Tyne, which is 50ft below ground level, which shows the incredible amount of water that was flowing.

Preventative measures

“We had put sandbags around the entrances to the building on the Saturday and the council cleared the drains as a preventative measure, but the next day the whole estate we are on was under 5ft of water, and there was nothing anyone could do. The flood had receded by Monday and when we went inside, everything had a film of oil over it, as the water surge had toppled a red diesel tank. There was also silt everywhere.

fortunate in having our second depot in Consett. Within 24 hours of the flood we had Hexham’s calls diverted there, and Manager Paul Bramley and his team did an incredible job dealing with the extra workload. We also moved the equipment that was unaffected into a temporary warehouse. I believe we lost very few orders despite the difficulties.”

Mike Simpson at the Hexham depot.

Negotiating with the company’s insurers was obviously a major task, but Mike Simpson put this into the hands of a specialist insurance recovery agent. “He was worth every penny. He had called round on the day of the flooding to offer his services, and he handled everything professionally, making all the phone calls and attending various meetings. He knew the loss adjusters and could speak their language. We were able to get on with

restoring the business and he negotiated a fair settlement which meant we could replace a large proportion of the fleet with new items.

Spirit of determination

“Our relationships with customers have actually strengthened since the incident. This is a close-knit community and people support each other. During the recovery work there was a real spirit of determination amongst everyone on the estate, and it was almost like being in the trenches. The last two years of trading have actually been our busiest ever and business has increased by 10% over the past year alone at both Hexham and Consett.

The aftermath of the flood.

“All our smaller equipment stored at ground level was obviously ruined, as was our PAT testing and workshop facilities, and the showroom was wrecked. However, our accounts and customer records were safe as our offices are upstairs. Nevertheless, we managed to re-open for business two months later. We were


“The whole area is busy. A lot of older properties are being refurbished and extended by owners in preference to moving house, and many people move into the region after buying and

renovating barns and other farm buildings. Every contractor we speak to has a considerable amount of work on.”

Easyhire currently employs 13 people at its two locations. The business has plans for expanding the Hexham operation, with the possibility of adding the unit next door which would enable the

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