Hopes of saving flood sirens bolstered

The future of Norfolk's flood sirens became clearer after a crunch meeting last night for the first time between officials and volunteers who operate the warning equipment.

The future of Norfolk's flood sirens became clearer after a crunch meeting last night for the first time between officials and volunteers who operate the warning equipment.

Confusion and anger have raged since official civil emergency body the Norfolk Resilience Forum said earlier this year that it wanted to shut down the county's 57 sirens and replace them with a telephone warning alert system.

Following the forum's announc-ement, a campaign was launched by flood siren volunteers to save the emergency network because they believe it is the best way to warn coastal communities of flooding.

The high-level meeting heard the decision to axe the sirens could now only be made by Norfolk County Council, the main funder of the network, and not the forum, which is made up of police, fire, health and council representatives.

And as an added fillip, the volunteers were told that the county council is actively considering whether some or possibly all the sirens could be saved.

The news was warmly welcomed by the flood volunteers from Wells, Cley and Sea Palling, and by North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who arranged for the meeting to be set up.

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He said: "I am very pleased with the outcome of this meeting and firmly believe we have all to play for now.

"I think it was essential that the forum met with the volunteers because they are the ones on the ground in their communities and know the potential threats from flooding."

Mr Lamb said he was very pleased that the meeting also agreed to improve channels of communication between the forum and the flood volunteers.

Other meetings should be held during the rest of the year to discuss the sirens' fate, which include possi-ble plans to upgrade the existing, ageing system if it is kept on.

The forum wants to replace the sirens next year with a cheaper Environment Agency telephone flood warning system which would see police officers being drafted in to help evacuate villages threatened with flooding.

However the forum's controversial proposal does seem to differ from the county council stance.

Roy Elflett, the council's head of emergency planning, said: "We have listened very carefully to what has been said. We are fully prepared to work closely with the siren volunteers and want to engage with them to take this whole matter forward."

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