A LONG-established independent Farnham business has vowed to bounce back “bigger and better” after its furnishings showroom in South Street was flooded as a result of Storm Doris this week.
Farnham Furnishers has been based at Bridge House next to Gostrey Meadow for the past 25 years, and in that time has grown from a small solitary showroom employing just two people to a staff of 24, with plans to take up the entire ground floor of the building this summer.
However, its ambitious plans suffered a setback this week, after staff came into work on Monday to find the entire length of the ground floor of Bridge House flooded, with its bedroom showroom under two inches of water.
The problems began after a tarpaulin covering building works on the top storey of Bridge House was ripped off by Storm Doris last Thursday, partially blocking South Street and leaving the rest of the building exposed to the elements.
It had been hoped a remaining tarpaulin covering the lower storeys of the building would keep out the elements until a more permanent solution could be found. But torrential rain over the weekend proved otherwise.
As a result, many of Farnham Furnishers’ kitchen and bedroom displays were irreparably damaged as rain water poured through its ceiling tiles, destroying computers and pitching the showroom into darkness.
Developer Hedgehunters, which is building 14 new luxury apartments on the upper three storeys of Bridge House, promised to place a corrugated iron roof on the building as well as “all the dehumidifiers and heaters the furnishers need” to dry out the ground floor.
And despite the significant damage and having restored only 30 per cent of its electricity, Farnham Furnishers’ owner and founder David Hall was steadfast this week that his business would not only remain open, but would continue to grow as planned.
Mr Hall told The Herald: “The new frontage was going to open in June, and this may set us back a few weeks but in the meantime we’ve had professional cleaners and electricians in to make everything safe, and it really is business as usual.
“The flooding caused major damage and the inconvenience is huge. We’ve got seven designers here, but we’ve lost three desks and of our 10 computers, three have been destroyed.
“But we’ve got some temporary lighting and electrics, the staff are all mucking in, new displays have been ordered and we will reopen bigger and better than before. It will take more than a bit of flooding to stop us!”
Mr Hall added Farnham Furnishers has been “busier than ever” in the first quarter of 2017 and soon hopes to secure a long lease on the entire ground floor of Bridge House - incorporating the former Rainer & Rapson hairdressers and Tiffin takeaway premises.
He hopes the new displays will be fitted and ready for customers to view “within three weeks”, and in the meantime has assured clients his staff are still able to design and quote for work, visit clients’ houses and measure up as usual.
It comes after Waverley Borough Council granted Hedgehunters planning permission for the redevelopment of the Bridge House last year, without any public objections.
Once complete, The Bridge - as it will be renamed - will boast an entirely new, modern stone-clad fascia with 12 ‘top end’ two-bedroom apartments plus two rooftop three-bed penthouse suites, above the revamped Farnham Furnishings on the ground floor.
The project has been designed by architects Re-Format, who are also responsible for the new care home development at the Shepherd and Flock roundabout.
Hedgehunters’ owner David Thorne, whose firm has completed several high-end flats in the town centre, told The Herald: “The storm issues at Bridge House have been massive. It’s been an absolute nightmare and we’ve basically had the roof torn off, all the water pour in and soak all the chip board and framing. But we hope to be back on track shortly.
“We’ve reacted to it as speedily as we can, we’ve got the insurance loss adjusters dealing with all the claims and the builders put a new tin roof on top on Tuesday.
“We’re just trying to get it built for all the buyers as quickly as possible - it’s incredible, 68 per cent of the apartments are already pre-sold, and it’s a real legacy project for the town.
“The penthouses were the first ones to go, and there were people interested before we even started laying bricks. We’ve gone over the million pound mark, which surely must be record breaking for a flat in Farnham.”
Aside from the flooding at Bridge House, Storm Doris had a limited affect elsewhere in the Farnham area.
Gusts of up to 60mph did bring a number of smaller trees and branches down and the Farnham Angling Society reported a number of trees were felled at Alice Holt Forest, forcing the temporary closure of Lodge Pond.
However, roads and rail services were mostly unimpeded and The Herald received no further reports of major damage.