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Stay of execution for flood sirens

PUBLISHED: 08:33 25 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:27 03 July 2010

Surprise stay of execution: Flood siren debate extended for four months.

Surprise stay of execution: Flood siren debate extended for four months.

Flood siren campaigners were celebrating what they saw as a surprise interim victory yesterday as a council committee approved a four-month extension for further debate and research in a bid to solve the long-running sirens stalemate.

Flood siren campaigners were celebrating what they saw as a surprise interim victory yesterday as a council committee approved a four-month extension for further debate and research in a bid to solve the long-running sirens stalemate.

Campaigners were worried the siren issue would be effectively dropped at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's fire and community protection overview and scrutiny panel, where members have been battling for months to save the sirens but have been repeatedly frustrated in their efforts.

Both police and Environment Agency have insisted they do not want the 57 old and unreliable sirens and would not use them even if they were operational.

Instead they want the public to rely on an automated system which provides warnings by telephone, mobile, e-mail, text message and fax. The reliability of this system has been called into question by sirens campaigners.

This left the council, which owns the sirens, in the difficult position of paying for the upkeep of a service which would stand disused by the other authorities.

Yesterday the panel decided to allow until mid-July for Norfolk MPs to make an effort to save the sirens and also for fuller consideration of funding an independent review into the need for the sirens.

Environment Agency bosses took many people by surprise by offering to contribute financially to the review, though it is understood they are insistent the council takes the lead on the project.

After yesterday's meeting, panel member David Callaby said he felt an independent review would “strengthen the case for keeping the sirens”.

“The need for the sirens is still there, Sir Michael Pitt said in his high profile report into flooding that they were an important and integral part of warning and evacuation.”

Leading sirens campaigner Marie Strong, from Wells, said she was “euphoric” about yesterday's decision, but there was still a large amount of work to be done.

“I wasn't expecting it, although I was hoping for it,” said Dr Strong.

“This allows time for further involvement of the coastal MPs and also to try to get this independent review going.”

And North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who chaired a meeting of all the key agencies involved in the sirens dispute, said he felt the decision was a “real result”.

“I am pleased the Environment Agency has said it will make a contribution to the costs of the independent review. There is a compelling logic for that review.”

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