Final bid to save coastal flood sirens

A crunch meeting in the battle to save Norfolk's flood sirens, led by the county's MPs and featuring all the key agencies in the debate, hopes to end the impasse tomorrow.

A crunch meeting in the battle to save Norfolk's flood sirens, led by the county's MPs and featuring all the key agencies in the debate, hopes to end the impasse tomorrow.

Communities, councillors and politicians have fought to retain the ageing warning system but have come up against opposition from police, who say the sirens are old and unreliable, and the Environment Agency, which believes they are unnecessary.

The county council has continued to fund a maintenance contract which keeps the sirens working but is worried it is spending taxpayers' money on a system which will not be used.

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Tomorrow's county hall meeting, led by north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, will attempt to convince police and the Environment Agency to alter their position.

But throughout the debate campaigners have insisted it is the views of the people on the ground that really matter.

Olive Upton has so far been unimpressed by the touted alternative to flood sirens.

An automated phone system which occasionally tells the Wells pensioner to move her belongings in preparation for high water has become, in part, a standing joke.

'The phone will go and a recorded message will say various things about the next high tide,' said Mrs Upton, who lives on the east quay in the coastal town. 'It then says I should take my personal belongings upstairs. I live in a bungalow.'

The Floodline Warnings Direct system has been said by the Environment Agency to be the way forward to alert people to the danger of tidal flooding along the Norfolk coast. The free service provides warnings by telephone, mobile, email, text message, fax or pager.

Mrs Upton said she did not sign up for the service but still receives phone calls - often late at night - which she feels are inadequate as warnings.

A few doors up, Brian and Margaret Scott said they felt the phone messages were 'overdone'.

'They are worded in such a way that even when the risk is minimal, it would make nervous people very concerned,' said Mrs Scott, who lived in Wells, albeit in a different house, during the devastating floods of 1953.

'There is also the risk that some other people will get so used to hearing these warnings, seeing nothing happen and so they will become blas� and ignore them.'

Inland from King's Lynn at Wiggenhall St Germans, parish clerk Elaine Oliver said villagers were worried the Floodline warnings would fail. She said: 'It's going to be such a horrid, foul night whenever anything happens, there won't be power lines or mobile phone signals.'

The west Norfolk village is split in two by the River Ouse and has seen it breach many times.

Mrs Oliver believes the sirens are the fastest way to let everybody know something is wrong. She said: 'That is what they know and trust. Why get rid of something that is working?'

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