MOTORISTS were the biggest winners as water levels continued to fall as the worst of the flooding looks to have passed.

Hylton Road, outside your Worcester News' offices, was reopened to traffic at about noon yesterday after being closed for several days when the floodwaters caused the drainage system to overflow.

Teams from Severn Trent Water and the Environment Agency had worked to man pumps in a bid to clear the carriageway and drivers were urged to take extra care as flood defence equipment remained in place and the lanes had been narrowed.

Shoppers and visitors to the Faithful City will be able to park for free at a major car parks, as part of an ongoing campaign to spread the message that Worcester is open for business.

The dramatic floods and the closing of the city centre’s only traffic bridge last week hit traders hard but Worcester City Council is now offering free parking at St Martin’s Gate multi-storey car park from today (Thursday) until Sunday to promote the city centre as a great shopping and leisure destination.

Cllr Adrian Gregson, leader of the council, said: “Even though our city centre has been open for business throughout the floods, we know all those images of the swollen river put people off coming to our great city.

“Offering free parking during half term week and at the weekend will support the message that Worcester is open for business and promote our city’s fantastic range of shops, cafés and restaurants."

The City Walls Road-based car park has 796 spaces - the ground floor is open 24 hours a day and the other floors are open from 7am to 9pm.

The response to the flooding has moved into the recovery phase of contingency flood plans as the waters recede and clean-up operations begin.

Up to now the Worcestershire Silver Tactical Coordinating group, which includes senior representatives from a number of agencies, has managed the response but it met for the last time yesterday.

From now on the Recovery Group will manage the clean-up in a multi-agency activity chaired by Worcestershire County Council's director of resources directorate, Patrick Birch.

Work by the organisations working to ease damage caused by the recent flooding has been praised by one of Worcestershire’s top firefighters.

Speaking at a meeting of the Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority yesterday, deputy chief fire officer Richard Lawrence said the past two weeks had been the wettest since records began in 1910.

But he said the amount of flooding-related incidents firefighters had been called to from Friday, February 7 to Monday, February 17 – the period in which the floods were at their worst – was “relatively modest”, accounting for only 54 of 225 call-outs.

During these 60 people had to be evacuated from their homes and other buildings. A further 14 incidents of dangerous structures such as trees and unstable walls caused by high winds were also reported.

He said the amount of problems would have been much higher had firefighters not worked so effectively alongside the Environment Agency and other organisations and learned lessons from previous periods of flooding.

“I put that down to the excellent work of our partners, especially improvements made by the Environment Agency,” he said.

“Obviously that would have been a lot more significant had that not been in place.”

Last night the Met Office was predicting the cloud and outbreaks of rain would spread from the west and continue for much of the night, with southwest winds also picking up.

A cloudy start to today was forecast with occasional outbreaks of rain before making way for a blustery day with scattered showers, some of which could be heavy, and some sunny spells in between.