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Siren setback

PUBLISHED: 10:59 29 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:28 03 July 2010

Campaigners fighting to upgrade Norfolk's flood siren system were dealt a setback yesterday after neighbouring counties were only prepared to sign up to maintain the scheme for the next year.

Campaigners fighting to upgrade Norfolk's flood siren system were dealt a setback yesterday after neighbouring counties were only prepared to sign up to maintain the scheme for the next year.

Norfolk County Council had hoped to reach a three year deal with the BBC to keep the sirens going - but its partner councils in Essex and Lincolnshire only wanted to sign a 12-month contract.

Councillors were updated yesterday about the new £56,000 contract which will run from Friday.

The council, which was previously looking to scrap the system, agreed to retain 40 of the 56 sirens to sound the alarm for an evacuation, after a protest campaign from local flood wardens.

Confusingly the council manages the sirens. Responsibility for warning people about the danger of floods lies with the Environment Agency which prefers to use a telephone-based alert system. And any decision to activate the signals rests with the police.

The decision means the issue will again be up in the air in a year's time, with fresh questions about whether the current system should be modernised because the sirens will not work from 2014 when the analogue system is turned off as part of the digital switch-over.

Richard Rockliffe, cabinet member for fire and community protection, said: “We will continue to fight to get the best possible warning system to residents. It's not the council's decision to give out warnings and it's not within the county council's capability to give out the warnings because we do not have the information - that's in the hands of the Environment Agency. They do not support the sirens which makes life difficult.”

Councillors also held talks with police officials yesterdayto try and persuade them to activate the sirens, but with little signs of success.

Lib Dem councillor David Callaby said: “What are we going to do if Essex and Lincolnshire don't renew their contract in a year's time? Shouldn't we be looking not only to save the sirens but also improve them?

“We shouldn't just be replacing the sirens but ensuring when they are needed they are activated.”

Yesterday the council also agreed to lobby the government and MPs to support the recommendations of the Pitt Review into the flooding of 2007.

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