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Fight for sirens goes on

PUBLISHED: 12:45 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 07 July 2010

A campaign to save Norfolk's flood sirens has been dealt a potentially killer blow - but campaigners have pledged not to give up on their three year fight.

A campaign to save Norfolk's flood sirens has been dealt a potentially killer blow - but campaigners have pledged not to give up on their three year fight.

A death knell for the ageing war devices has been sounded for the end of the month, with county councillors being urged to scrap the sirens because they are unreliable, likely to cause panic and are not fit for purpose.

The move, which could be approved as early as next week, will anger campaigners along the coast who have argued the sirens are an essential back up to the main Environment Agency telephone warning system and should be upgraded.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said on Tuesday he was “disgusted” by the plan to scrap the sirens, which would appal coastal communities, as it ignored a pledge for an independent review which “appeared to have been reneged” upon.

Norfolk County Council's Fire and Community Protection Overview and Scrutiny Committee will hear on Tuesday that campaigners have failed to make a strong enough case to save the sirens and that funding could be better spent on providing information to the community about what to do in an emergency.

John Ellis, the county's head of emergency planning, says in a report that the legal duty to warn people of flooding lies with the Environment Agency, while the responsibility for evacuating people lies, ultimately, with a group chaired by Norfolk police.

The report details how a decision was delayed for a year at members' request to allow for consultation with coastal communities, and outlines the views expressed by the Environment Agency and Norfolk Constabulary - who both say they cannot see any situation in which they would ever use the sirens.

Mr Ellis' report recommends the committee asks the council cabinet to withdraw the flood sirens from service at midnight on July 31.

The report also says emergency planning officers in Norfolk believed the sirens were not fit for purpose, the system was not reliable and the messages they gave, if heard, were not clearly understood by the community.

Marie Strong, who has been a leading campaigner during the flood sirens battle and was voted in as a county councillor for the Wells division last month, will take her place on the Fire and Community Protection panel for the first time next week.

She said: “It's absolutely appalling; I knew inside myself this was going to happen, but we will carry on with our campaign.

“I'm optimistic about the future of the flood sirens - after all, it's common sense to keep them.”

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