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Plea for more facts in flood siren saga

PUBLISHED: 10:52 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:23 03 July 2010

THE committee tasked with making a key decision about the future of Norfolk's flood sirens tomorrow has been urged to defer its verdict and seek more facts.

THE committee tasked with making a key decision about the future of Norfolk's flood sirens tomorrow has been urged to defer its verdict and seek more facts.

A meeting of Norfolk County Council's fire and community protection overview and scrutiny panel will be presented with an officer's report advising the sirens are switched off

for good from midnight on July 31.

The report has sparked anger both along the Norfolk coast and from further afield since its contents were revealed last week.

As reported on the Mercury website last week, the county's head of emergency planning John Ellis says the sirens are unreliable, likely to cause panic, unfit for purpose and cost £42,500 a year to run.

The debate has been raging for three years, but must be allowed to continue, campaigners argued at the weekend.

Paul Rice, the newly-elected county councillor for the South Smallburgh Division, which includes low-lying and coastal villages at Hickling, Horsey, Ludham, Potter Heigham, Sea Palling and Horning, said more time was needed.

“One of the things which has not happened yet is an investigation into the cost of updating the system to make it fit for purpose,” said Mr Rice.

“That costing is vital before a decision is made and it is absolutely extraordinary it has not happened yet.”

With an overwhelming community view that sirens were an important part of the warning and evacuation procedure, the county council had a duty to listen to the public, added Mr Rice.

“We have been presented

with no viable alternative or options to date - and there should be options other

than simply turning the sirens off.

“This is a young council, members were voted in just five weeks ago. Several members of the fire and community protection panel are new. This needs more time and more debate.”

At Sea Palling, senior flood warden David Russell said: “If the fire and community protection panel decide to scrap the Norfolk flood sirens on Tuesday they will have the direct responsibility for any deaths and injuries that may occur as a result of this in the future.

“With climate change leading to higher sea levels and more storm surge tides it is inevitable that flooding will occur.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the way the sirens debate had run seemed to be “the ultimate in cynical politics” and said if the sirens were abandoned, he would view it as a “serious breach of trust by the county council”.

He said the county council should “step back from the brink” and stick to what he considered to be an earlier commitment to an independent review, towards which the Environment Agency had agreed to make a financial contribution.

Mr Ellis's report states: “It is the opinion of officers that to carry out a further review into the use of sirens is not best use of resources.”

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