Reprieve for flood sirens

JON WELCH Campaigners are jubilant after gaining more ground in their battle to save the save the network of flood sirens along the Norfolk coast.The county council has agreed to consult volunteer flood wardens over the future of the sirens, which had been due to be axed from July.

JON WELCH

Campaigners are jubilant after gaining more ground in their battle to save the save the network of flood sirens along the Norfolk coast.

The county council has agreed to consult volunteer flood wardens over the future of the sirens, which had been due to be axed from July.

The authority had planned to scrap the 57 sirens in order to save £35,000 a year, with the county relying instead on an Environment Agency system using landline, mobile phones and pagers to warn people of imminent flooding.

But the plan provoked a public outcry, and campaigners last month won a reprieve for the sirens until July next year.

Yesterday at County Hall they handed in a petition signed by more than 2,000 people calling on the council to retain and upgrade the flood sirens.

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Addressing the council's fire and community protection review panel, Dr Marie Strong, joint co-ordinator of the Wells flood action plan, said the positioning of essential sirens should be surveyed and replacements scheduled.

“Modern sirens have now been erected in at least 10 parts of the country, places which, like Norfolk, have special needs.

“In a number of other countries sirens have been retained and replaced. Experts in emergency situations have warned that relying on 'responders' delivering information is not an acceptable option and that modern siren systems are essential after power and telephone lines fail and mobile phone signals die.”

Plans to include the flood wardens in discussions on the future of the sirens won cross-party support. Derek Baxter (Conservative) said: “These are the people that are having to get their hands dirty when the problems occur and they are not being informed or asked what will happen in the future.”

The panel agreed to set up a sub-committee to look at the options for the sirens, and to consult the flood wardens.

Colleen Walker (Labour), who will sit on the committee is herself a former flood warden. “I'm ecstatic,” she said.

“None of this would have happened without Dr Strong and her commitment. This is an extremely important issue because in Norfolk we're surrounded by water on three sides.

“The people on the ground are the people that know and we should pay attention to them.”

Dr Strong said: “The sirens are vital because although the wardens can go and warn people that they may need to evacuate, there will be insufficient time to go round and tell them again that they definitely have to go.

“We're absolutely delighted that at last we're going to talk to people in a position of authority and will be able to explain why we need the flood sirens and how they would be used.”

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