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Fresh calls for flood sirens to be reinstated on parts of Norfolk coast

PUBLISHED: 14:20 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:12 09 July 2014

Archant © 2013

Fresh calls have been made for flood sirens to be reinstated on parts of the Norfolk coast, following last year’s devastating storm surge.

The call for another debate on sirens was one of more than a hundred recommendations made to improve the way Norfolk responds to floods, after an investigation into how the storm surge was handled.

The floods, on December 5 last year, saw hundreds of homes and businesses swamped with water as tides around the county’s shores reached heights which eclipsed those of the fatal floods of 1953.

A report, put together by officers at Norfolk County Council after a ‘debrief’ with councillors and other organisations, hailed much of the work done to cope with the emergency.

But council bosses said vital lessons must be learned and 114 recommendations - including consideration of bringing back the sirens - were drawn up.

They were considered by the county council’s environment, development and transport committee today.

Among issues identified in the report were:

• Key information, such as about evacuations, was not communicated properly

• Schools should have been closed on the day of the surge and not opened the morning after

• There was a “lack of willingness” by some staff at Norfolk County Council to respond out of hours

• People relied more on social media, which was not always accurate, than on ‘official’ sources

• Councillors were not kept properly informed

• Rest centres were opened in areas where they were not needed - such as Acle, where not one person attended

• There were problems with mobile phones and blackberries not working in some coastal areas

Liberal Democrat Tim East said the events of December 5 showed there should be another look at flood sirens.

He said: “Norfolk’s coastal residents, in many cases, have very poor communication links and the flood surge has highlighted the danger residents can be placed in at such times.

“I would like to see sirens erected in certain, specific places.

“I am not saying a blanket approach, but it should be a serious consideration.”

But UKIP’s Toby Coke, chairman of the committee said the Environment Agency said it might make more sense for parish councils to consider buying sirens.

He said: “I am very loath to commit to some countywide plan where Norfolk County Council is responsible for the maintenance.”

Council officers said the Environment Agency was responsible for flood warnings and did not see flood sirens as the way to issue those warnings.

But committee vice chairman John Timewell, also a Lib Dem, said: “We may be outside the national way of thinking, but there’s a need for it.

“North Norfolk is an area that needs help because it doesn’t have mobile phone communication.”

However, independent Richard Bird said flood sirens were not necessarily the answer and would not be appropriate, for example, in the Hunstanton area.

He said: “We used to have Sunday morning siren sessions and they used to drive everyone up the wall.”

The meeting also agreed which councillors would sit on a panel to distribute £250,000 to communities affected by coastal erosion.

Areas such as Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney and Cley were swamped in the floods and there was substantial damage to property at Walcott, where some homes were destroyed. Over the border, Lowestoft also suffered.

Following the floods, the Eastern Daily Press set up the Norfolk and Lowestoft Flood Appeal to help and our readers raised a six-figure sum.

Money has, through the Norfolk Community Foundation, gone to those who needed it.

• Do you have a story about a local council? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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