Letters, December 13 2013
PUBLISHED: 10:20 13 December 2013 | UPDATED: 18:57 15 December 2013
Evacuation maps are out of date
What a relief all round that Yarmouth’s river flood defences held up so well to a flood surge on a par with the 1953 floods. The police, council workers, emergency and voluntary organisations all played their part in ensuring local people were protected and assisted.
My real disappointment was that the Environment Agency maps which were again used to target evacuation were not fit for purpose because they do not take account of existing river and sea defences. This meant that police were attempting to evacuate 9,000 homes when a much smaller number were in real danger of inundation using more up-to-date Flood Risk Maps commissioned at considerable expense by the borough council in 2009.
I had thought that after the “debrief” following the near-miss flood event in 2007 that local knowledge would be deployed for subsequent flood alerts. I sincerely hope the message will now get through in future resilience planning. It is pointless evacuating the general public in roads outside the areas identified in the flood risk maps. It is not a good use of police time and evacuation centres to move people who don’t need moving.
The effort should be concentrated in Southtown and Cobholm and identified riverside areas along the Yare and Bure where these interventions would make a real difference. We must not rest on our laurels though and in that context it is pleasing to note Yarmouth should receive further improved river defences with the Environment Agency’s planned works due to start in Southtown and Cobholm in 2014.
County Cllr MICK CASTLE
Yarmouth Central & Northgate
Thanks for the interest in book
On behalf of Gorleston-on-sea Heritage (GOSH), I would like to thank everyone who attended the launch of our latest book last month, and the library where it was held.
From the Trade Bike to the World Wide Web is a history of the shops and trades in Gorleston. We are grateful to the Chamber of Trade for organising the day of the switch on of the High Street lights and for allowing us to sell the books then. To all the people who bought the book, thank you. It is available from GOSH members and Music Lovers in the High Street.
Kitten in box condemnation
To the person who left the kitten in a sealed box at Caister RSPCA: Hadn’t you got the guts to wait until there was someone there to hand him over to them?
No, you just dumped him didn’t you? They (cats and dogs) do have feelings you know, just a baby a few weeks old and parted from its mother, in a confined box for I don’t know how long. Well you probably say good riddance but I say I hope you have a bad Christmas. Thank God that little one will be cared for and enjoy his new life.
Admiration and thanks to all
I was offered the chance of evacuation but decided I was more at risk as Caister High School is nearer the sea than my house!
However, I would like to offer my admiration and heartfelt thanks to all of the emergency services especially those who travelled from all over Britain to help this old town out in its hour of need.
A special thanks to the army lads who were sent to help. Thanks to the environment agencies and all the many volunteers who left their own homes in atrocious weather to help where they could. My heartfelt sympathy to those who lost their homes and those who suffered damage, it must be a miserable situation to be in.
What I can’t understand is those onlookers and thrillseekers who put their own lives at risk and put the emergency services under more pressure.
Okay if you were watching from a safe distance or looking to help and some amazing photos were taken, but please think of what could have happened due to the stupidity of some of you. Ridiculous!
Finally Nelson Mandela was seen as a great man but it was unhelpful to those of us watching TV for information during our plight to suddenly have every channel switch to coverage of his death.
I doubt if many here appreciated the wall to wall reporting, it was as if we had fallen off the map - sorry to all those channels that none of us died and there wasn’t more flooding!
Well done again to everybody, we don’t want too many nights like that. My nerves for one won’t stand it!
Well done for coming through!
Congratulations to Yarmouth for again coming through relatively unscathed last Thursday night even though the tidal surge was greater than in 1953.
Although I live in Norwich, you would have had to be living on Planet Zorg not to be aware of the potential disastrous flood that was staring the town in the face last Thursday.
While with hindsight I cannot but help smile to myself recounting a phone call I made last Thursday morning to a friend in Yarmouth which was met with the request ‘could he phone me back as he was busy eating his porridge’!
This was at about the same time the Government’s COBRA committee was meeting to discuss the possible fate of my friend along with thousands of other Yarmouth residents.
He did phone back to decline my offer of a place to stay in Norwich that night to avoid the flood that never came.
‘I’ll phone you Friday, to let you know if we’ve been swept away’ were his departing words at the end of that phone conversation. Neither he nor his mother, were swept away as I feared and he was proven right, I’m pleased to say.
On reflection though, while this may have seemed like scene from Wallace and Gromit, it may also have grave implications for Yarmouth for the future.
While not wanting to be the ‘spectre at the feast’ it won’t have gone un-noticed by many in Yarmouth that the this is the second time the flood didn’t arrive, even though the tidal surge was worse than 1953.
The emergency services will have to up their game considerably next time despite their admirable efforts last week.
People will be even more persuaded not to evacuate the next time this happens... and there will be a next time.
While Norfolk’s Deputy Chief Constable Charlie Hall, ‘who led the multi-agency response to the floods in Norfolk’, reassured Yarmouth residents, it does not follow that, as he said ‘….Norfolk has tried and tested flood response plans’ which he said ‘were being put in place, in line with Environment Agency advice”.
These [evacuation] plans were, thankfully, not “tested” last week and it’s the implementation that matters not the plan. We all know what can happen to the best laid plans.
Thankfully, this time, ‘God’, perhaps through Deputy Chief Constable Hall and the environment agency, had the foresight to have “tried and tested plans” whilst also improving Yarmouth’s sea defences after 1953. We thank them all for that, but as far as I know, there hasn’t been a tried and tested mass evacuation of Yarmouth, should the sea defences fail?
When Yarmouth residents were told that 15,000 of them maybe more, might be displaced but that there were only 1,500 places available at rest centres and clearly the rest of the population didn’t do as advised and seek safety with friends and relatives and evacuate, it does prompt us to question said ‘tried and tested plans’.
We cannot be left to the sea
The fact that the high tide of last week was not able to cause the devastation of 1953 floods showed the benefits of investment in sea and flood defences.
At Caister, the major investment of the past in defences was revealed as concrete defences were uncovered as the beach was swept away. Caister would have been swamped without the foresight and investment of the past. Likewise, Hopton claims to have seen the benefits of their recent investment in defences.
Land is a finite resource and we must not allow the sea to reclaim it. Everyone is paying extra in insurance charges to meet flood insurance claims, surely we would be better investing in defences.
All the disruption and stress by the flood threat is not worth it. Then there is the cost to the hard pressed budgets of emergency and council services.
It would have been better if the defences for Cobholm, Southtown and Gorleston had been completed so the residents did not have all the worry and stress of floods again. Interestingly, many of these people are low income families.
This is another example of where Government money can be well spent and I was pleased to note an increase is planned.
Our borough cannot be left to fall into the sea, like at Hemsby.
Will our MP not take pay rise?
Food prices up 6pc, energy prices up 9pc, VAT up, inflation up by over 2pc, most pay up by no more than 1pc, benefits up by 1pc and members of parliament could be getting an 11pc pay rise after 2015.
Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, has written to me and said it would be quite improper to award this pay rise. My question to Mr Lewis is if he was elected after the 2015 election would he accept or refuse this rise?
Visitors thank the James Paget
Would you please through your newspaper say a big thank you to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston for us.
On Tuesday November 26 my husband was admitted to the A&E department with a mild stroke and on Wednesday 27 was given several tests then allowed to travel home to Dagenham with medication.
We would like to say a big thank you to the ambulance crew and doctors and nurses who attended him on the 26th and also the lady doctor and stroke nurse Oliver for their care on November 27.
We would also like to thank Darren the security guard at Haven Holiday Park who phoned the NHS helpline for us.
The treatment my husband received was great and a big thank you to all of you involved.
ALBERT AND DOREEN ROSS
I was a barmaid at Star & Garter
I can go back a bit further than Bryan and his late wife in the days of the Star and Garter.
I worked as a barmaid for Mrs Mac alongside a very nice man called Bertie. It was a very busy pub, smoke hanging from the ceiling, juke box in the corner playing nothing but country and western and a good time was had by all. My late mother met her husband in there.
Can anyone remember Hoot Carlson? The rig men worked hard and played hard.
When Mrs Mac retired I went on to work for Bryan and Pat Miller when they took over. Those were the days.
C A BALLS
Bravery of man who halted fight
On Thursday lunchtime of this week I was leaving Woody’s Cafe in Broad Row Yarmouth when I noticed a serious argument between two groups in the side row.
A fight ensued and if it hadn’t have been for the heroic intervention of a man and lady then I fear to think what might have happened.
The man stepped in between the fight and when it became really nasty separated the people fighting. I don’t know what this was about but, what I do know is that I saw an amazingly brave action in which serious injury was prevented.
We hear so many stories of people ignoring the plight of strangers. What I saw here was bravery and an amazing example of courage.
I hope this was seen and rewarded as I think the man deserves a medal!
Many derelict, empty homes
A recent article in your sister paper the EDP showed how the North Norfolk District Council was tackling the problem of empty housing using Empty Dwelling Management Orders.
A year ago I wrote to the local council on the number of empty and in many cases derelict houses. The three I mentioned were those at the corner of Beaconsfield and Garfield Roads, the town houses 124-125 Nelson Road Central, and the derelict house and development site on the corner of St Peter’s Road and Nelson Road Central.
The council answered me that work on at least one property was to start this year. So far nothing has been done.
Next door to 124-125 Nelson Road Central is Lancaster Square. Walking down this passage I notice one of the houses has a compulsory purchase order on it from the council. I am wondering where the funds are coming from to do this as the council seems to be running out of money for direct services.
I am tempted to ask the question is the council able to use its powers to act as a third party to allow interested parties to put up the money for the council to be able to buy so that sites and properties can be redeveloped?
I ask this because the site in St Peter’s Road would be suitable for new housing and I find it incredibly strange that due to the “storm” we have lost part of our housing stock and other properties have been damaged. Yet in area’s safer than at-risk areas homes are being allowed to rot and development opportunities are not being taken.
Anyone who has suffered from the recent bad weather would be entitled to ask the council for safer accommodation in town therefore it is the council’s duty to get every property into an habitable state.
The Colonel H
Nelson Road Central
Bring back the Harrier jets!
Readers, help us get 100,000 hits to try to bring back the harrier jump jets. It is a disgrace seeing a British aircraft carrier with no planes on its flight decks.
Please go to the Goverment’s e-petitions website then enter under petition search ‘harrier jump jets’ to view and sign a petition. If you do not have internet access please try your local library.
MR F E SHARPE
Care at the JPH was wonderful
I would like to express my deepest thanks to the James Paget Hospital, for the care and attention given to me during my recent illness.
I could not fault them for anything and say to anyone who does make bad comments about them, that they are lucky to be quoting on hearsay as it is obviously not from experience.
Twice I have needed intensive care there. An aneurism of my aorta in 2003, and removal of gallstone bladder this November.
The staff were wonderful on both occasions, just like a well-managed machine they show full dedication to a patient’s needs, often staying over at the end of their shift, to help finish a task before giving their relief a full and comprehensive hand over.
I do not enjoy being ill, but if I am give me the James Paget Hospital always.
Funds needed for sea defences
How sad it was to see the devastation caused by the most recent storms around our coasts and all praise to the emergency services for their gallant efforts during what could have been a disaster for home owners and the elderly.
I can remember the floods of 1953 and the wartime spirit of the residents of Cobholm who at that time were as one, what little they had they were prepared to share. I can remember the rats running from the malt house adjacent to our house in Steam Mill Lane and dust bins and garbage literally flowing through the front of our house to the back carrying with it what little furniture we had so I can relate to the home owners of Hemsby who have suffered so much losing their homes to the sea.
Bad enough that they have lost their property only to suffer even more by the mindless thieves that broke into sheds to steal what few possessions they had managed to retrieve, I think back to the most recent floods in the Philippines and of the immediate action of our Government by donating over £20m in aid. But I have to ask what sort of Government do we have that can provide assistance to others but cannot guarantee help to their own.
They may say that money is being spent on coastal management but in truth the coastal management policy allows for what is deemed as natural wastage and even allowing the extraction of 40 million tonnes of aggregate from as close as two kilometres from Yarmouth, this action will undoubtedly take even more of our precious beaches, that is almost guaranteed.
My heart goes out to all of the residents in Hemsby for their hard work in trying to raise money for sea defences, but what is needed now is a concerted effort by the local authorities, members of parliament and the Environment Agency together with coastal committees to bring together a regional or national unit that can encourage Government to provide funds sufficient for need and not the occasional few pounds here and there.
I heard a reward of £1000 is being offered to those that call the police for drivers who drink, brilliant idea but how nice it would be if that money was offered to a charity to help rebuild the shattered lives of our local residents, our coastline is precious, people want to visit our beautiful county so let us all do what we can to ensure that our beaches are still there in 50 years .
Anglia Skills Academy Ltd
Thank you for evacuation care
When the scare about flooding came last Thursday I was advised by police, because of my disability to go to Cliff Park High School where there would be people to help.
My daughter took me with a few things in my bag and the hall was full of elderly people and others who had been advised to go there. They soon got me settled with chairs I could use, an identity badge, and as much tea, coffee and bottled water as I wanted.
I want to thank all these kind-hearted people, teachers, staff and Red Cross, Norfolk Care and other volunteers who cheerily saw after us, and the chef for the nice food – the home-made soup was delicious. They came to have a chat when they had a few minutes to spare. Yes, the old bull-dog spirit was there.
MRS J POTTER
Who were our sandbag angels?
A big thank you to the two ladies who came down Beach Road, Caister, on Thursday evening and put sandbags at our front door. We do not know their names but we were very grateful.
MR AND MRS B GOODWIN
Kind people came to my aid
May I say thank you through your letters page. On Saturday December 7, I collapsed on the pavement under Market Gates.
Thank you to Sam the wonderful paramedic, Jo the policeman, Lisa for her coat for a pillow, and a young man whose name I didn’t get for taking off his very warm jacket and wrapping it round me.
When able to walk I was taken to Allen’s Music Shop where my organ teacher Beth arranged for us to use an office. So many kind people offered help.
It is good to know there are still kind people about. Thanks to my husband David for looking after me.
Red bridge is a beautiful sight
As we travel frequently from Vauxhall Station we have had many opportunities this year to see the gradual emergence of the Red Bridge and what a beautiful sight it is.
Walking across its huge space towards the station with the river flowing underneath there is a real sense of connection with Great Yarmouth’s history which is then laid out pictorially in the stunning artwork on the right.
Many congratulations to Miriam Kikis, Vauxhall Links, and all those who have worked so hard to see this project through.
We very much look forward to the next phase so that the complete bridge will await visitors to Yarmouth in the near future.
SHEILA & PETER RUSSELL
Well done to the surge services
Congratulations to the planners and the emergency services for what seems to have been an exemplary operation to seek to contain the huge storm surge in the Yarmouth area and all around our coast on December 5 and 6.
It is terrible of course that over a thousand people in our county had their homes flooded - but that we, collectively, managed to stave off loss of life, compared to similar major floods in the past, is a huge cause for relief.
Now that we in Norfolk have survived this threat largely-intact, it is time to start planning for the next time, and the time after that.
With this surge following hard on the heels of the terrible biggest-ever storm (with hurricane-force winds) in Scotland, it is clearer than ever that we are living in an age of extreme-weather events.
We all know and we all see, every month and every year now that our weather-patterns are not the same as they were. Mostly, this is part of the effect of human-induced dangerous climate change.
And our world-leading climate scientists here in East Anglia tell us that this climate chaos will be joined, over time, with an even more disturbing and systematic change - the gradual rise of sea-levels, as the polar ice-caps wilt under the greenhouse effect.
This makes it more critical than ever that we here in Norfolk do our bit to tackle the causes of this problem, as well as protecting ourselves against their effects.
We need to step up our efforts to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions; we need a massive programme of insulation for every house to reduce energy waste (and so to reduce bills, too); we need to increase our investment in renewable energy (notably, in offshore wind around our coast, but also in wave and 100pc-reliable tidal energy, so far terribly neglected); we need to combine tidal and wave energy schemes innovatively with new flood-prevention devices; and we need to stop building on flood-plains.
If we make these changes, which are Green Party policy, we will be helping to prevent sea-level-rise. And so we will be helping to insulate ourselves in the best possible way, collectively, against the storms of the future.
DR RUPERT READ
Green Party MEP candidate
Yet another thanks to JPH
In addition to my letter in the Mercury, November 1, I have just spent a further three weeks in the James Paget Hospital ward 15, bay 5 for breathing purposes and again I would like to thank the doctors and nurses for looking after me, and other patients. Also a epecial thank you to Sheila for keeping our tables clean and clear at mealtimes.