|A tranquil scene on the Fitties - but what if a tidal surge crashed through the sea defences?|
A VISION of Humberston Fitties chalet owners fleeing from flood waters in their nightwear was conjured up at full meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council.
Portfolio holder for finance and resources Coun Mathew Patrick (Lab, Heneage) demanded: "Do we want see a situation where tenants are seeking to escape in freezing cold seawater while still in their pyjamas?"
Despite his graphic imagery, members voted 24-11 to veto a controversial cabinet decision that the current close season for night-time chalet occupation should be extended to include November and December as well as January and February.
They believe that the tenants have formulated a sufficiently robust evacuation plan in the event of a future tidal storm surge overwhelming the defences (which were strengthened by the Environment Agency in 2010 at a cost of £785,000) .
Prior to the debate, Tim Paddison, a flood risk expert with the Black and Veatch consultancy, outlined the risks. But the meeting also heard from three chalet owners - Linda Hague, Alex Hamilton and Paul Harwood - who all expressed strong objections to the prospect of an extended close season.
"Four months' closure would be intolerable," protested Mr Harwood. "It would be cruel, illogical and unjust .
"Please help us - we don't want our community to be strangled by NELC."
Numerous chalet owners were present at the meeting - held at the Assembly Rooms in Grimsby Town Hall - and there were sporadic bursts of applause after they heard cross-party speeches of support for their case from councillors who included UKIP's Nick Pettigrew, Independents Stephen Harness and Matt Stinson, Conservatives Philip Jackson, John Fenty and Stan Shreeve plus Labour's Karl Wilson and Tim Mickleburgh
"Everything we do carries risks," said Coun Jackson who is, himself, a professional risk assessor.
A different perspective came from Coun Matty Brown (Lab, Croft Baker) who warned that the council could incur substantial costs if, having disregarded specialist advice, it faced a situation in which flooding resulted in catastrophic consequences
He reminded colleagues: "We have a responsibility of financial prudence to all residents of the borough."
The cabinet will now have to review its unpopular decision at a forthcoming meeting later this year.
The debate offered an opportunity for the administration to update the council on the plan to sell the Fitties site, but, though Coun Brown noted that a change of ownership was possible, no further information was provided.