‘Sirens and sandbags not £105k signs’

Paul Kenny with ER sign at Liquorpond Street roundabout.
Paul Kenny with ER sign at Liquorpond Street roundabout.

Former Boston mayor Paul Kenny is seeing red over new road signs installed to guide people away from floods – and says the £105,000 should have been spent on sirens and sandbags.

Mr Kenny was mayor during the 2013 tidal surge that saw large parts of Boston flooded and says the signs won’t keep homes dry, the so-called safe evacuation routes are not registered with sat-navs, and no-one can predict in advance whether those routes will be under water in the next big flood emergency.

The signs have ER in white lettering on a red background and Mr Kenny says they caused a great deal of confusion when they first appeared, with some people thinking the letters had something to do with the Queen.

He said: “I know local government has got to make savings in money, but I bet if you asked the people of Boston if they wanted sirens and sandbags or signs, more people would say spend it on sirens and sandbags.”

He’s checked more than 200 local authorities and says most use sandbags.

“East Lindsey use them, South Holland use them – all of the other districts use them but not Boston,” he said.

He believes sirens are the best warning for a flood because they give people the time to go home from work to move precious belongings upstairs – and sandbags would enable some to keep their property dry.

Mr Kenny said some residents were almost a year before they got back into their homes after the 2013 flood and lots of people lost irreplaceable belongings.

“Some people are still petrified of it happening again,” he said.

A borough council spokesman said the authority is sticking to its ‘no sandbag’ policy.

He said: “You must, of course, give consideration to the £2,125,928.45 of Government cash spent on properties in Boston since the 2013 flood on flood resilience measures – flood resistant external doors, one-way sewage and foul water valves and flood resistant air brick covers. And the Boston Barrier is on schedule – dramatically increasing flood protection from the sea.”

David Powell, head of emergency planning at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The devastating floods back in 2013 proved that coastal flooding still represents a serious risk to the east coast of Lincolnshire.

“Following this the emergency services agreed that evacuation routes would help lead people to safety, and allow them to focus on those in danger.

“In the event of a serious flood we strongly advise local residents and tourists to follow the signs.

“This is about protecting lives and the local economy.”

“The flood siren in Boston was decommissioned because it used old technology which was no longer reliable.

“We decided not to replace it as sirens can cause panic – they don’t tell people what to do or where to go. It also would have been very expensive to maintain.

You can find out more about the signs and sign up to Environment Agency flood alerts online at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/lincolnshire-prepared/