West Kirby cafe owner doesn’t know when it will reopen after flooding

The owner of a café that was flooded after waves crashed over a sea wall said it does not know when it will reopen.

Tanskeys Bistro in Coronation Gardens, West Kirby had to be evacuated by the RNLI after it was completely surrounded by floodwaters which entered its store rooms but didn’t rise high enough to flood the main café.

Videos shared by the cafe’s staff and on social media show deep water covering the parts of South Parade leaving cars stranded in the town despite a £19.7m sea wall built to protect properties in 2023. There are two videos from the storm surge in 2013, before the wall was built at the end of this article.

A flood alert had been issued for West Kirby which according to Wirral Council meant “a lower grade warning with a risk of spray overtopping”. 

In a statement on social media, the local authority which backed the project said it “was designed to act as a defence system to take power out of the tidal waves, to prevent higher levels of flooding and minimise potential damage in the area.” It further added, “We’ll be assessing things with the Environment Agency and keep you updated.”

The seafront after the water has subsided. Credit Sue Freeman

The LDRS went inside the café, after the flood waters had partially receded, and spoke with Hannah Cleator, Tanskeys’ manager, who said she didn’t know when the café will be able to reopen. She added, “The good news is the main café is dry but the storerooms are flooded, but I will know more tomorrow.”

The café has flooded in the past but Ms Cleator believes the wall had made it worse by trapping water behind it raising further concerns about damp, adding, “There was more pressure on the walls. Our store room was like a whirlpool in there.

“It would make sense to close and start afresh but we are going to try and turn it into something positive and improve and learn from it again. The flooding was going to happen with or without that wall.”

Tanskeys as a business was reportedly one of the worst affected during the construction of the flood defence on the promenade. Ms Cleator previously told the LDRS she saw a drop of 80% in customers over the 2022 summer as the view opposite the café became a building site.

She said, “We had to practically close for that year and had a loss of earnings and now it’s finally open and it’s causing us another problem. It feels like the wall is against us,” adding, “We are trying to run a business but it’s hard sometimes.”

The West Kirby sea wall was heavily criticised during construction for disruption in West Kirby from a loss of parking and several businesses attributed lower earnings to the building works. A former construction worker said he faced daily abuse from the public while constant criticism reportedly impacted staff mental health.

Since it was completed, many have praised the wall’s look as well as improvements made to the town’s promenade with claims more people are visiting it than ever.  However, the wall has come under heavy fire on social media following the most recent flooding.

It has been argued the waves would have been more damaging without the wall as the defence broke their force. Barbara who lives in West Kirby said she liked the wall and knew a lot of people in favour, adding, “If the wall wasn’t here, I imagine it would have been much worse.”

Water was left trapped by the wall despite the tide going out. Credit: Hannah Cleator

Pauline Mawdsley whose home overlooks Coronation Gardens said she had changed her mind about the wall but added, “I think the barriers are a problem because the water has nowhere to go. 12 years and I have never seen it that bad.

“I was a sceptic about the amount they spent on it but once it was finished, it looks fabulous. It looks lovely but obviously, there’s something that now needs addressing.”

Some said the flooding was worse than previous storms which had swept over the promenade. Annette McGarry who was visiting from Nantwich said: “In all the years I have been coming here, I have never seen it like this and I have been coming here for donkey’s years.”

Others criticised the project arguing it had not done its purpose which was to protect homes from flooding. Paul Hughes (pictured below) said it showed the wall was “a colossal waste of money,” adding, “It happened before they spent the money on the wall and it’s pretty frustrating that they have gone and spent a lot of money on a wall that has not done its job.

“The wall is acting as a ramp and the water is just sitting there. There’s nothing and nowhere for it to go. If anything it’s going to cause more damage.”

Asked whether he thinks the wall should have been built higher, he said, “It would break the views. That is the big selling point of all the properties. You couldn’t have built it any higher to be honest.”

Paul Hughes. Credit: Ed Barnes

A spokesperson for Wirral Council said, “There has been flooding at a number of locations around Wirral’s coastal areas. The storm today has seen extremely high winds combined with higher than usual tides to cause water to come over floodwall at West Kirby.

“The floodwall in West Kirby was designed to act as a defence system to take power out of the tidal waves, to prevent higher levels of flooding and minimise potential damage in the area.

“As with all significant flooding incidents we will assess the flood defences in conjunction with the Environment Agency. While the weather conditions remain stormy it is advised to avoid the coastal areas.”

Image: Hannah Cleator, manager of Tanskey’s Bistro which flooded. Credit: Ed Barnes

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How things were in 2013 without the flood wall

West Kirby storm surge on 5 December 2013