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Siren summit fails to find way forward

PUBLISHED: 11:01 24 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:40 07 July 2010

The impasse over the future of Norfolk's flood sirens remains despite a top level meeting yesterday aimed at resolving the "life and death" issue.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb arranged the summit in a bid to bring an end to the stalemate surrounding the aging sirens, which has so far lasted for more than two years.

The impasse over the future of Norfolk's flood sirens remains despite a top level meeting yesterday aimed at resolving the “life and death” issue.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb arranged the summit in a bid to bring an end to the stalemate surrounding the aging sirens, which has so far lasted for more than two years.

Police, the Environment Agency and the county council believe the current sirens are “beyond their sell by date” and want the public to embrace the automated system which provides warnings by telephone, mobile, email, text message and fax.

But despite senior flood wardens and councillors yesterday reiterating the public strength of feeling in favour of keeping the sirens and their lack of faith in the new system, the only agreement at the end of the meeting was that the county council would look into the possibility of commissioning an independent report- though this was felt unlikely given current budget constraints.

Mr Lamb invited Dafydd Evans, from the Environment Agency, Ian Learmonth, Norfolk police deputy chief constable and others to county hall.

“We are talking about a life and death issue,” he said.

“The universal view from the community is that the sirens are part of the flood defence mechanism and that there is a lack of trust in the automated system. We are at an impasse. The public hasn't been convinced by the case for losing the sirens.”

When first put forward in January 2007, a report to the fire and community protection review panel said the sirens, which date from the second world war, cost about £35,000 a year to maintain and operate while decommissioning would cost about £85,000.

Richard Rockcliffe, cabinet member for fire and community protection, said yesterday: “The current sirens are beyond their sell by date and we would have to look at replacing them...quite frankly the county council is prepared to continue funding at the current rate but to replace the sirens with the level of standard the police are looking at is beyond what we have at the moment.”

Those representing the public said often people who had signed up to the Environment Agency's Floodline Warnings Direct system were worried unnecessarily by calls or simply ignored them after a time.

Mr Lamb stressed he was not going to let the matter rest.

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