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Letting agency swoops on Whaley Bridge dam evacuees to say they aren’t insured

A lettings agency has been criticised for offering home insurance to Whaley Bridge residents amid fears the nearby Toddbrook Reservoir could collapse.

Gascoigne Halman offered tenants quotes for getting their personal belongings insured shortly before 1,500 residents were evacuated yesterday.

If the dam bursts, due to structural damage caused after the heavy rainfall, it could send up to 1.3 million gallons of water into Whaley Bridge and surrounding villages along the River Goyt, destroying hundreds of properties.

Leon Welliver, who lives in Whaley Bridge, said he had an email from Gascoigne Halman yesterday afternoon explaining that the ‘landlord’s insurance policy does not cover personal belongings’.

The letter states: ‘We would like to take the opportunity to check that you have tenant’s content insurance in place for your personal belongings.

‘If you would like a quote for tenant’s content insurance we would be more than happy to provide you with one, so that you can compare costs and cover to your current policy should you have one in place.’

Mr Welliver, who lives about 300 yards from the dam, hit out at the letter which he posted on Twitter.

He told ‘I couldn’t believe it.

‘I thought of Jo Moore, the Labour spin doctor who tried to say today is a very good day to bury bad news, when 3,000 people had been mass murdered in New York and Washington.

‘I felt it was an attempt to make money. I thought it was an insensitive and insulting thing to do.

‘It seems like they [Gascoigne Halman] have no concern for my family, my friends and the people of Whaley Bridge and the fact that their lives are in danger.

‘But if you make a bit of commission on insurance sales, then terrific.’

Mr Welliver, who is originally from Los Angeles, moved to Whaley Bridge 16 years ago and lives with his wife Kathryn and daughter Melissa.

He said he does not need to be evacuated because he lives above the dam, but was still incensed by the communication from his letting agent.

‘You don’t call somebody when they have the Damocles overhead and say “do you want life insurance?”,’ he added.

Yesterday, the 6,500 residents in Whaley Bridge were told to leave the area.

More than 150 firefighters have been working with the RAF to desperately slow down the amount of water flowing into the reservoir.

Chinook helicopters have been dropping one-tonne sandbags on the damaged part of the dam structure.

Fire crews have been using high volume pumps and helped reduce the water levels by 8 inches (200mm) overnight.

However, engineers are still ‘very concerned’ with the integrity of the dam.

Many social media users reacted angrily when they saw the Gascoigne Halman letter on Twitter.

One said: ‘Absolutely disgraceful. Trying to capitalise on people when they are in high stress situations is immoral beyond belief.’

Laura Furness, a local letting agent, wrote: ‘This email is absolutely disgusting and I’m sure your landlord would agree.’

But some Twitter users backed the communication, with one saying: ‘So they are offering sound advice and trying to help and it’s a disgrace? Guess they shouldn’t have said anything and just said after that no belongings are covered.’

Another added: ‘Don’t really see what’s wrong – they are letting people know about your insurance stance and offering to help.’

Gascoigne Halman insisted the letter was sent out hours before the mass evacuation.

In a statement, Gascoigne Halman, said: ‘With severe flood warnings in place across areas of the North West and with the protection of our tenants’ belongings in mind, we sent out an email to all of our tenants on the morning of Thursday to remind them that they needed to have their own insurance in place to cover their personal belongings.

‘Following the email we have had over 50 responses from tenants who did not have the appropriate insurance in place, thanking us for drawing their attention to this.

‘We have supported these clients and helped them to insure their household belongings.

‘Given the unfolding of events in Whaley Bridge later in the day yesterday and the distress people in areas such as Poynton were experiencing, we accept our communication should have been more empathetic.

‘We do, however, stand by our actions in sending out the communication.

‘Our thoughts are with the communities impacted by these events, indeed we are very much part of these communities and are working with clients in these areas to support them during this difficult time.’

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