Insurance battles start for Rackheath companies after blast

Following on from last month's blast on the Rackheath Industrial Estate our reporter David Freezer caught up with three of the companies affected.

The importance of having insurance cover was emphasised at Dave Barkshire Motorcycles, whose unit sits around 50m from where KC Cafe previously stood, but had a lucky escape.

Owner Dave Barkshire said: 'When we got in it was a catastrophic mess. A lot of the helmets and jackets were full of glass, so are going to have to be scrapped. All of the coat hangers had to be straightened out because they were all stretched out of shape and the glass display boxes that the helmets are on were nearly all shattered.

'The walls down in our workshop are structurally damaged, but we have been quite lucky really, it could have been a lot worse because I do sometimes stay late in the office to do my books.'

It took the motorcycle dealers the best part of three days to get their unit straight again, with heavy machinery and equipment falling to the floor in the workshop.

However, the big let-off for the business was that all its motorbikes remained on their stands and an incredibly expensive domino effect did not take place.

That was still a close call though, as a scooter and motorcycle that sit on a heavy duty stand above their unit's doors did not collapse, despite the metal bracketing shifting substantially.

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Mr Barkshire added: 'We are all back to normal now, but we realise other places have been impacted quite badly. So it was just a case of us all getting on with things.

'Everyone on the estate has checked on each other though, there's a good sense of community down here.'

Max Bidwell and Sons Garage Services is one of the longest serving businesses on the industrial estate, having been there for more than 45 years, but was prepared for the possible dangers of loss of business in such unusual circumstances.

Owner Max Bidwell said: 'We now have all the claims going in for the structural work that needs to be done. One of our doors had bowed and the wall heaters had come off the wall, so we are in the throes of claiming for that stuff.

'We were closed for three days so there is loss of business to be claimed for, but we are a family business and we just rolled our sleeves up at the time to get back in action as quickly as possible.

'But we have got the Rolls Royce of business cover when it comes to insurance though because we have been with Aviva, well Norwich Union formerly, for years and years. Our contents, building and road insurance is all with them, so it is top to bottom coverage really.

'So Aviva will pay us for our losses from the explosion and try and get reimbursed from the third party, but if that proves fruitless then our premium will go up, but that's just the way of life.'

Mr Bidwell says his business had 14 cars on their premises on the night of the explosion but were 'very lucky' that the blast did not cause more damage to the vehicles from less than 100m away.

He has no dispute with the closing of Wendover Road, which caused his loss of business the day after the blast, saying: 'The road was closed for all of Thursday, but we were allowed in during the afternoon by the structural engineers to view the impact and we could see there was a lot of work to do.

'For safety purposes they obviously had to close the road because the Stratstan building which got the main impact was still all over the place and there was quite a strong wind that day. And they were quite right to safeguard people as a priority so we have no issue with that.'

One business on the industrial estate which is facing the prospect of a hefty insurance claim is VBS Accident Repairs.

Joint-owner Roger Sutton is confident that their insurance policy will cover them for loss of business, saying: 'We are quite lucky that we have got an insurance broker and loss adjuster who are on the ball. They seem to think that we are not going to have any problems claiming.

'If we had have been under-insured then it could have caused us a lot of difficulties, our premium is still going to increase though I'm sure.

'Apparently the damage to the whole estate is going to cost over �1m and for us it is going to probably run into a couple of thousand.'

Some structural damage could lead to further disruption, but Mr Sutton is not worrying too much about insurance problems as he knows the impact could have been much worse for the business.

'I'm just pleased because the explosion could have happened earlier in the day when we had people in our building and the casualties could have been catastrophic,' he added.

'All of our roof has got to be replaced and the wall above our office has to be replaced as well, so it has caused major damage.

'We were quite lucky with the damage inside, some of the lights had come down and damaged some cars and a fluorescent bulb came down and exploded as well.'