Siren campaigners call for consultation

Opponents of proposals to axe Norfolk's coastal flood sirens hope a meeting today will put the plans on hold for 12 months to allow time for public consultation.

Opponents of proposals to axe Norfolk's coastal flood sirens hope a meeting today will put the plans on hold for 12 months to allow time for public consultation.

Earlier this year the Norfolk Resilience Forum, which includes representatives from the emergency services and the county council, decided to stop the use of the 57 sirens and rely on the Environment Agency's free Floodline Warning Direct service that warns people by landline, mobile or pager. This would save the county £35,000 a year.

But flood wardens said losing the sirens would put lives at risk because the new system would not be as effective - and they were outraged their opinion had not been properly heard.

Last month the county council's Fire and Community Protection Review Panel urged the forum to delay its decision and hold a public consultation - and today campaigners hope the private forum meeting will agree.

At the weekend Dr Marie Strong and her husband Mike, joint co-ordinators of the Wells Flood Action Plan, handed a 1,700-signature petition to retain and upgrade the sirens to county councillor Steven Dorrington, chair of the Fire and Community Protection Review Panel.

A similar 350-signature petition from Sea Palling was handed in to County Hall earlier this month.

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Dr Strong said she hoped the strength of the petitions and the many appeals by residents, flood wardens and councillors would “help common sense prevail” at the meeting.

“The whole town and beyond was so responsive to the petition because everyone is up in arms about this decision,” she said.

“The sirens really are vital. We, the floodwardens, are the foot soldiers who stand outside on wet stormy nights so why haven't we been consulted about what happens to them?”

Mr Dorrington said: “The new Environment Agency system relies heavily on telephones but mobile phone coverage on the coast is not very good here.

“We want the officers to listen to the communities on the coast and we will lobby for a new digital flood alarm system.”

Cley floodwardens Tony Aberdein and Roger Brownsword and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb also had what they called a “very encouraging” telephone conference with police and council representatives of the forum on Friday.

Mr Lamb said: “I was very pleased they listened to the flood wardens' concerns and seemed prepared to step back from a decision which coastal communities are extremely concerned about.”