THE TOWN TO PREPARE FOR THE WORST?

First published in News

OPINION seems divided as to whether Ledbury Town Council should prepare for disaster, by putting the town's emergency plan to test in a mock scenario.

In the light of recent bad weather conditions, memories of July 20, 2007 have re-surfaced, when Ledbury was cut off by flood water overnight and around 600 travellers took refuge in various locations, such as the Community Hall and the John Masefield High School.

Many town councillors believed it is high time for the town's emergency plan to be given a dry run, - including former town major, Coun Keith Francis, who worked much of the night, during the 2007 floods, to look after the people who were stranded in town.

Councillors brought them coffee, food and blankets, in an operation that was then town council led.

Now the emergency plan is headed by Herefordshire Council, and several councillors have undergone recent training, to make sure all goes to plan.

Ledbury's current mayor, Coun Terry Widdows, believes the town is well-prepared, although he is not ruling out a rehearsal.

He said:"In terms of the emergency plan some council members went through the retraining recently and there has been talk of trying to organise a rehearsal. The plan is a good plan and does not need in my opinion to be redone; but a staging of a rehearsal would obviously benefit all the parties involved and provide useful learning."

Coun Martin Eager said: " I have now mentioned on several occasions to the town council that we need to test the Emergency Plan, I was lead to believe by Herefordshire Council early last year that a mock emergency scenario was going to put in place to test the plan, but like many things, it seems to have been overlooked."

But Coun Eager added: "Is the plan fit for purpose? I have no idea, if there was a genuine emergency then probably, yes.As for recent weather, I doubt that the situation when the town was 'cut-off' by heavy rain will happen again."

Coun Francis pointed out that an emergency might not involved floods, but could be a disaster such as a major road or train crash.

He said: "We did have a training session 18 months ago, but we need to have a look at it again."

Under new arrangements, the contact between the Ledbury and Herefordshire Council will be the town clerk, Karen Mitchell.

Coun Francis recalled: "In July 2007, Herefordshire Council didn't know we were cut off, and that meant everything was in our hands, and it was all done ad hoc."

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