Coastal flood sirens: there's all to play for....

The thorny debate about Norfolk's flood sirens will return to the council chamber next week, with county councillors being told they have done all they can and the issue needed to be left to the three coastal MPs.

The thorny debate about Norfolk's flood sirens will return to the council chamber next week, with county councillors being told they have done all they can and the issue needed to be left to the three coastal MPs.

But members of Norfolk County Council's fire and community protection panel have been urged not to take any binding decisions when they meet on Tuesday so they do not threaten the outcome of a crucial summit next month or indeed the longer term future of the sirens.

The argument over the county's sirens has raged for two years and the county council is keen to draw a line under an impasse between flood wardens, councils, the police and the Environment Agency.

The police claim the sirens will not be used in an evacuation because they are old and unreliable and Environment Agency bosses say they are not necessary - but councillors, campaigners and MPs continue to insist they are wanted by local communities and what is needed is investment in replacement technology.


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Members of the fire and community protection panel will hear a report from a cross-party scrutiny group when they meet next week.

That report was written by Steve Dorrington, chairman of the panel and the scrutiny group.

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Mr Dorrington concluded that the panel had 'reached the limits of what it was able to do' and it was now a matter for the MPs.

He added: 'If MPs are unable to influence Norfolk Constabulary and or the Environment Agency to change their stated positions then it is recommended that the flood sirens be withdrawn from service on August 1.'

The panel will be asked to endorse changes in contracts and the removal and disposal of the flood sirens, so saving tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on retention and maintenance of a system which will not be used.

But North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was extremely concerned to hear any decision could be made in advance of a February 23 meeting of all the key individuals and bodies - police, Environment Agency, MPs, council representatives and flood wardens.

'It would be bizarre for the county council to conclude anything at their meeting next week prior to the February meeting,' said Mr Lamb.

'Having arranged this meeting which features all the key decision makers and officers, it would be outrageous to be presented with a fait accompli.

'It is critical in negotiating a solution to this that the county council keeps its options open, they must not admit defeat.'

Wells senior flood warden and leading sirens campaigner Marie Strong said a previous meeting of the panel had agreed to ask the MPs to engage in the debate and give them adequate time to discuss options.

But if the summertime date was set in stone there was no guarantee this would happen, because follow up meetings after the February gathering would take time to arrange, she said.

'I can't believe the panel will approve a volte face. The MPs need due time, which August 1 is not.'

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