We live in UK's most flooded town where popular BBC show is set – most of it will be underwater in years to come | The Sun

WITH its rugged coastline, pretty harbour and typical Cornish charm, it's no surprise BBC crime drama Beyond Paradise chose to film in Looe. 

The show has been a big hit – but while it looks idyllic on screen, locals say the seaside town is far from paradise, with one big problem in particular.

Looe is prone to flooding – once earning itself the unenviable title of the most flooded town in the UK.

Just this week the town was hit by high spring tides which rose above the quay wall and submerged pavements and roads, causing chaos to local bus services.

It's seen far worse over the years, with floods estimated to have cost the local economy £39m between 2012 and 2017 alone, with mostly businesses affected. 

Climate scientists predict that with sea levels rising in the coming decades, most of the town will end up in a flood zone. Some streets and the railway are expected to be underwater by 2150.


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Angie Aldridge, who works at Looe's Sarah's Cake Shop, tells The Sun on our visit: "We are fortunate that we are up a couple of steps, but when it does flood there are no ways around town, and when the tide goes out again it leaves mud and debris."

Last year the town unveiled plans for a huge breakwater and tidal barrier to protect Looe from flooding. But opinions were split with some fearing its impact on marine life and character of the town.

Councillor Hannaford said: "Quite a few businesses are directly affected by flooding, they're very resilient and even have pumps in the middle of their property.

"They can't get flood insurance because insurance companies say it's too risky. Nobody there has carpets any more because of the flooding, they are all tiled. It causes so much disruption to people."

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This week spring tides brought yet more floodingCredit: Facebook/St Austell Coastguard
The local coastguard shared snaps of the flooding onlineCredit: Facebook/St Austell Coastguard

But flooding isn't the only challenge that blights the lives of locals in Looe.

One in three children in the town are living in poverty, while 48 per cent of households experience some form of deprivation, according to Cornwall County Council. 

Meanwhile the second homes market has driven up property prices to the point where hard-up locals can only dream of getting on the property ladder.

Mayor Edwina Hannaford, 62, says: “People see the beautiful backdrops in Beyond Paradise and wouldn’t think child poverty here is in the worst 20 per cent in the country.

“Amongst all the beauty there are people that are really struggling, and it’s not always apparent because it’s hidden amongst the beautiful landscape.

“The show has represented the town beautifully and it makes me really proud to see it looking so gorgeous, but there is acute poverty as well as a lot of wealth, and they live side by side.”

The show has represented the town beautifully and it makes me really proud to see it looking so gorgeous, but there is acute poverty as well as a lot of wealth, and they live side by side

The Death in Paradise spin-off sees DCI Humphrey Goodman, played by Kris Marshall, swap the Caribbean for the fictional town of Shipton Abbott.

Looe has long been a favourite of celebrities; Richard and Judy have a house there, as does Fern Britton, and even Beyond Paradise star Marshall is said to have a base in nearby Polperro.

Properties there had an overall average price of £326,477 over the last year, with the majority of these sales detached properties, selling for an average price of £477,500.

Belle Holtam, 18, who was born and bred in Looe, is living with her parents and works in a local cafe while she saves up to travel around Europe. 

She tells us: “Growing up here is the best, winters are quiet but the summer is beautiful and I have such a close group of friends and we were always on the water paddle-boarding or kayaking. 

“People who lived here and grew up here who are trying to buy a house are finding it a real struggle.

"They are having to branch out to other places like Liskeard or Plymouth because prices are through the roof.”

Financial stress

On the quayside Dominic Sadler, 48, has run seafood wholesaler Simply Fish for the last 10 years. But last year, with the business struggling, he was forced to sell up to a large London-based company which kept him on as manager.

He says: “It’s a relief not to have the financial stress any more. If I hadn’t sold up a year ago we definitely would have folded by now. 

“Prices have just risen so much in the last couple of years it was becoming unsustainable.

“This quay used to be absolutely buzzing with smaller fish merchants but now it’s down to two or three bigger ones like ourselves. All the small guys are gone now.”

Another sign of the times is fishermen who land in Looe and neighbouring ports no longer sell their catch in the town. 

Since the fish auction closed down in 2019, fish have to be driven 20 miles to Plymouth, where restaurants, fishmongers and wholesalers in Looe buy what they need and make the reverse journey back.

Dominic says: “We buy direct here where we can but the Looe boats land here and fish gets taken away to Plymouth, so we have to buy it there and bring it back.”

When we visit the majority of businesses in Looe are open, although many drastically reduce their opening hours for the winter season.

Many hope Beyond Paradise will have a 'Doc Martin effect' on the town – referring to the surge in tourists visiting Port Isaac on Cornwall’s north coast in wake of the hit series starring Martin Clunes being filmed there.

Tourism is already worth around £47.8m to the local economy, directly supporting more than 1,100 jobs and indirectly supporting a further 400 jobs, but this is heavily weighted towards the summer months.

John Martin, 63, who supplies restaurants and cafes in the town with consumable goods as well as hosting a show on Radio Looe says: “Everybody has to earn their money in the summer. 

“I work 14-hour days, seven days a week because I know I’m going to lose £1,000 every month from the end of September to mid-March.

“I think the show will be massive for Looe. The amount of tourism we will get from it will be huge, but what we’re trying to do is get more people to come in the winter. 

“Looe is beautiful year-round. Summer is heaving, most of the cafes will be full most of the time, but we need more people here in the winter.”

The hope for more stable year-round tourism is echoed by Adrian Ward, 53, who runs The Lookout cafe with his wife Lucy. 

The pair moved down from Bedfordshire four years ago in search of a better quality of life and now employ eight people.

He says: “We are open all year but we are one of the few places that do that. 

“It’s incredibly difficult for small businesses. We stay open all year but it’s very tempting to close for winter. 

“I don’t think we lose money but we’re just about breaking even. My wife has gone back to work as a medical secretary to ensure we have a steady income all year.

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“I hope Beyond Paradise will boost the economy as the town is looking a little tired. 

“Rent has gone up, which has led to a lot of empty places around town, and places for sale where people have just decided enough is enough. This could be a new lease of life.”

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