Earlier evacuation needed if West Norfolk faces future tidal surges, report suggests

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Residents should be evacuated earlier if the tidal surge that hit the West Norfolk coast last year is repeated, a new report has claimed.

The call is one of 116 separate recommendations contained in a review of the response to last December’s emergency, which was examined by a Norfolk County Council committee this week.

And more than £3 million has so far been allocated to district councils, including West Norfolk, to fund repairs in the wake of the storm.

But Steve Grundell, a resilence officer for the county, has said residents will need to be moved away from their homes earlier in any future surge.

The paper said that a total of 16 businesses and eight homes, including a boat, were affected by the surge in West Norfolk.

But it also reported that the wall of water had arrived at Lynn, where officials said it was the highest ever recorded, a full three hours before the expected high tide and an hour before current emergency plans said any evacuations should be completed by.

He added: “Appropriate plans and procedures should be amended to reflect this and also have regard to Environment Agency intelligence/information in the build up to future events.”

The report said there also needed to be a clearer system for district and parish councils to activate their own response plans.

And Mr Grundell said a cost benefits analysis of maintaining the shingle bank defences along the coast between Snettisham and Heacham, which were also damaged by the flood, would be provided by the Environment Agency.

The report said the bank costs £150,000 per year to maintain and questions had been raised over whether an alternative defence mechanism could be found.

But Mr Grundell defended the authorities against suggestions that too many rest centres were set up around Hunstanton.

He said: “Given the potential scale of this event, huge criticism would have been made if under provisioned.”

The report’s findings were accepted by members of the county council’s environment, development and transport committee during a meeting in Norwich on Tuesday.

And Tom McCabe, the county’s environment director, said: “Only a thorough review of the December flood event will enable us to be able to improve our flood and water management procedures and the multi -agency response to floods, ensuring partners and citizens will be better prepared to deal with future flooding events.”

Meanwhile, bids are being invited for shares of a £250,000 fund to help coastal communities which were affected by the surge.

The money, which was first set aside when the council set its budget in February, will be used to help fund either new schemes or renovations of damaged areas.

Decisions on which schemes will be supported are expected this autumn, but work on successful projects will have to start by next March in order to keep the funding.

Committee members were also told that a separate study of flood risks from waterways in West Norfolk, which is being carried out by the county council, the borough council and the King’s Lynn internal drainage board, is due to be completed next month.