Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Flood sirens face silent future

Flood siren
Warning sirens would never used by police or Environment Agency

Flood sirens in a vulnerable part of Norfolk could be dismantled by the summer if council funding is withdrawn.

The county council said it could not justify modernising the 57 devices because Norfolk Police have said they are unreliable and would not use them.

The Environment Agency has refused to take responsibility for the sirens as it says it uses other ways to warn residents of possible flooding.

A decision on whether funding will be withdrawn is to be made on Tuesday.

Councillors will consider a report that says Norfolk Police could not envisage any situation where flood sirens would be used to assist with an evacuation.

"The Environment Agency will not take ownership of the outdated flood sirens, which do not cover their designated flood risk areas and would not form part of their flood line warning direct system," the report said.

The group that compiled the report concluded unless the other agencies changed their stated positions the council could not justify spending tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on retaining and maintaining an ageing system which would not be used.

It recommended if there was no change of position then the sirens should be withdrawn from service on 1 August 2009.

Sirens in Walcott were last used, at the request of residents, when the area was flooded by sea water in 2007.

Paul Woolston, an independent flood warden in Walcott, said they were considering going it alone to protect the community.

"That's the end of it. We've pleaded with them, had meetings, but they keep saying 'no' to us.

"We're now seriously thinking of raising out own money and buying a new siren because they won't keep the ones we've got."

Small amount needed

Dan Kemp, from the Environment Agency, said better flood warnings meant the sirens were no longer needed.

"They were originally installed for civil defence purposes 60 years ago not for floods and were in case the police needed to evacuate homes.

"With the advances we can now give in lead times the police no longer need them.

"The Environment Agency has never used the sirens and now the police don't need them either so they are redundant."

Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said the 30,000 bill to upgrade the sirens was small-fry to the council.

"Other authorities have modernised the siren system, especially Lincolnshire.

"So I'm very disappointed they are going to take this decision over a very small amount of money in comparison to their budget of millions of pounds and the 30m they chasing from Icelandic banks."

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