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MPs assured of a say on sirens

PUBLISHED: 13:47 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 09:20 13 July 2010

Coastal MPs trying to save Norfolk's flood sirens were assured this week they would be given adequate opportunity to pursue the issue before time is called on a key contract which keeps the sirens working.

Coastal MPs trying to save Norfolk's flood sirens were assured this week they would be given adequate opportunity to pursue the issue before time is called on a key contract which keeps the sirens working.

Campaigners had feared a Norfolk County Council meeting yesterday could threaten the validity of a key summit being held next month featuring all the agencies involved in the maintenance and possible use of the sirens, plus MPs Norman Lamb, Tony Wright and Henry Bellingham.

But that fear was removed during the meeting as members of the fire and community protection overview and scrutiny panel agreed to put on ice a proposal to name August 1 as a cut off date for the end of the sirens contract. The panel supports the retention of the sirens but has been unable to persuade the police and Environment Agency they need to be kept - prompting an impasse which continues to cost money in the form of maintenance payments.

The police claim the sirens will not be used in an evacuation because they are old and unreliable, while 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 replacement technology.

The panel said they would wait for feedback from the MPs' meeting, which is being held at County Hall on February 23, before debating the subject again at their next meeting in March.

Panel member David Callaby said the flood sirens issue was about people's lives, which were more important than contracts or politics. The amount of time the MPs has to resolve the row should not be limited, added Mr Callaby.

“I am concerned we are jumping a little bit too fast in this,” said Mr Callaby.

His colleague Peter Moore said the panel needed to keep discussing the subject until it was resolved because it needed to be kept high profile to demonstrate to the public how seriously community concerns were being taken.

Panel chairman Steve Dorrington said the committee was “still united” in their support for sirens and welcomed the input from the MPs.

The panel agreed to a proposal by member Tony Tomkinson to leave the issue in the hands of the MPs for now and bring the subject back to the table at their next meeting on March 24.

After the meeting Wells senior flood warden and leading sirens campaigner Marie Strong said she was pleased to see a stay of execution, but wanted more definitive explanations of the timescales involved if the MPs needed to call further meetings after the February summit.


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