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Report reveals lessons which must be learned following Norfolk’s devastating floods

Cromer Pier takes a battering during December's high tides.

Cromer Pier takes a battering during December's high tides. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

More than a hundred recommendations have been made to improve the way Norfolk responds to floods, after an investigation into how last year’s devastating storm surge was handled.

Flood damage


Wells-next-the-Sea – 10 homes and 13 businesses flooded.

Cley/Salthouse/Blakeney – 30 homes and 14 businesses flooded.

Weybourne – four homes flooded.

Sheringham – 90m of seawall and promenade damaged; 40m slope undermined; 1000m of handrails lost; damage to cafes; 6 businesses affected.

Runtons – 50m handrails lost and beach access steps damaged.

Cromer – 45m seawall parapet lost; 520m handrails lost; Significant damage to

pier decking; Loss of chalets, beach huts, lighting and signage; Damage to

chalets and cafes.

Overstrand – 600m of handrails lost; Beach access ramps undermined.

Mundesley – 100m of sea wall/promenade damaged; 40m of slopes damaged/

undermined; 3 beach access points destroyed or severely damaged; 430m of handrails lost; Public toilets and café damaged; Revetment damaged/destroyed; 1 business affected.

Bacton/Walcott – 350 sea wall top stones damaged; Sea wall grout lost; Handrails lost; Pathway behind the sea wall damaged; 72 residential properties damaged or destroyed; Two businesses affected.

Happisburgh – property lost and beach access ramp damaged.


16 businesses affected by flooding; 7 homes flooded and one houseboat flooded. Flood affected food handling premises which required Environmental Health oversight and assistance.

Debris had to be removed form Brancaster Staithe Fisherman’s Harbour.

Damage to the shingle bank at Snettisham and the seafront area, leading to a damaged road, exposed services and access difficulties. Spasmodic low water pressure problems fixed by Anglian Water.

Flood defence surveys carried out by the Environment

Agency and urgent repairs carried out.

Shellfish sampling had to take place to assess the impact of flooding on shellfish beds.


Six homes flooded in Lichfield Road, Southtown; Two homes and three holiday properties lost at Hemsby due to

significant erosion of the sand dunes.

Eight businesses flooded in Runham Vauxhall. A beach café at Caister was also washed away by the sea.

Approximately 600 people were accommodated in rest centres following on from the evacuation of 9,000 homes.

While the report into last December’s floods hailed much of the work done by organisations to cope with the emergency, council bosses said vital lessons must be learned.

The report, drawn up by officers at Norfolk County Council after debriefing meetings with various organisations and councillors, has highlighted a string of issues which hampered attempts to deal with the floods.

Among issues identified were:

• Key information, such as about evacuations, was not communicated properly

• Schools should have been closed on the day of the surge and not opened the morning after

• There was a “lack of willingness” by some staff at Norfolk County Council to respond out of hours

• People relied more on social media, which was not always accurate, than on ‘official’ sources

• Councillors were not kept properly informed

• Rest centres were opened in areas where they were not needed - such as Acle, where not one person attended

• There were problems with mobile phones and blackberries not working in some coastal areas

The report puts forward 114 recommendations to improve the response if such a flood happens again.

David Collinson, assistant director for environment and public protection at Norfolk County Council, said: “What the report is trying to convey is that, in terms of the operation, it was a success, as shown by the fact there was no loss of life.

“But we know the situation caused a lot of damage to property and as part of our statutory procedures we have carried out a very comprehensive review to capture the things that went well and the things which we need to improve.”

Among the recommendations is a proposal to look at whether flood sirens, scrapped in 2010, should be reinstated.

Marie Strong, Liberal Democrat leader and county councillor for Wells-next-the-Sea had campaigned to save flood sirens from the axe.

She said: “Consideration should definitely be given to re-instating flood sirens, in specific places.”

Jonathon Childs, UKIP county councillor for East Flegg, said he remained “at a loss” as to why his district, which he described as the “soft underbelly of the east coast” was not deemed at risk on the night of the floods.

He said: “To the north of my district and to the south of my district evacuation took place. There are serious issues still not resolved.”

Among positive actions identified in the report were: the good co-operation by the agencies involved; the reaction of the police, who brought in officers from outside Norfolk; the contribution of the ambulance service; and the recovery process, which was delegated to district councils.

The floods, on December 5 last year, saw hundreds of homes and businesses swamped with water as tides around the county’s shores reached heights which eclipsed those of the fatal floods of 1953.

Areas such as Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney and Cley were swamped and there was substantial damage to property at Walcott, where some homes were destroyed. Over the border, Lowestoft also suffered.

Following the floods, the Eastern Daily Press set up the Norfolk and Lowestoft Flood Appeal to help and our readers raised a six-figure sum.

Money has, through the Norfolk Community Foundation, gone to those who needed it and some of the fund is also being used to help those affected by last month’s flooding in Hemsby, Ormesby and Winterton.

The storm surge report will be discussed when Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee meets on Tuesday next week.

The meeting will also discuss how £250,000 set aside to support coastal communities will be allocated.

• Do you have a story about a local council? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email


  • There is one main reason why the last east coast tidal surge we had was not an unprecedented disaster. There was an offshore wind. Had there been an onshore wind many areas in Norfolk and Suffolk would have been wiped out. Lowestoft is a prime example of an at risk area. There have been a number of meetings recently to discuss such threats and issues. Something needs to be done quickly to prevent further future flooding. Many households and businesses have only just started to recover, the last thing they need is to face further flooding when the next tidal surges arise as they inevitably will. Let's hope lessons have been learned - talking and doing BA will not help. The Dutch have spent millions every year on flood defences and alleviation measures since the 1953 disaster. They do not pursue defeatist policies such as 'managed retreat' aka abandonment. What have we done? The citizens of the UK deserve better !

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    Grey Fox

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • lessons learned and sticky plasters applied, tick, jolly good pats allround. Until the next winter storm, possibly not of such short duration but a three day North westerly storm that pushes waters into the North sea up the Thames and Wash with more to come. Victorian sea defences are crumbling all around the country, Antarctic glaciers are calving twice a fast than what we thought two years ago, so when will PRECAUTIONARY LONG TERTM PLANNING come into it? When will we marry our sea defences with tidal energy schemes? we then can sent our Chinese immigrants home before they have started building nuclear power stations and all that folows from it.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • Can we please have a link to the report so that we can read it for ourselves.

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    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • V I totally agree. What sort of person is unwilling to work out of hours in an emergency like this. They are obviously in the wrong job and should be dismissed. There must be some catch all clause in their contracts to cater for situations like this. If not, NCC should revise the contracts of their employees as soon as possible.

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    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • Exactly BG. The sirens should have been kept. I wonder if they will be reinstated. "There was a “lack of willingness” by some staff at Norfolk County Council to respond out of hours" and " Councillors were not kept properly informed" "Sackings" and "why" come to mind. Sack those who were unwilling to respond out of hours, and why did the councillors need to be kept informed ?. What would they have done or been able to do ?

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    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • lessons to be learned? All the district councils with coastlines need to review their planning consents for all year round occupation of vulnerable properties-especially sites which have been and should be considered now solely for holiday use. The deaths at Heacham in 1953 happened only because people- in a time of housing shortage-were living in beach side properties meant for holidays.Planning consents for new builds have been follies in places-eg Sea Palling which was flooded in 1953 and earlier- and places like Mundesley which is vulnerable to erosion. Waterside properties associated with the toourist industry are ineveitably at risk of flooding-the councils should work with insurers to get business owners the best deals on insurance. Lastly, EDP reporters need a lesson in objectivity and clear sightedness so that we do not get a repeat of their near hysterical articles each time there is a bit of water. I thought the services in my area worked together admirably- with the exception of letting all shops and businesses know what real time information system they could use for updates on staff evacuation, bridge closures, the status of public transport etc.

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    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • Good to see those people who were constantly vilified about keeping the flood sirens have been proven right. It was fairly obvious that too much reliance was being placed on mobile phones and a back up system for warning the public would always be necessary. Lets hope they are reintroduced, where necessary, as soon as possible.

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    Thursday, July 3, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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