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Combined coastguard control centre proposal could keep service in Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 January 2012

Havenbridge House at Yarmouth.

Havenbridge House at Yarmouth.

©Archant Photographic 2008

A COMBINED coastguard station at Great Yarmouth’s harbour could stop the service from moving more than 150 miles away to Humberside or Southampton.

Campaigners who want to see local knowledge kept in the service say if the harbour continues to grow there will need to be a permanent police, UK Border Agency and Customs and Excise presence there.

And a proposal has been put to shipping minister Mike Penning to consider stationing a team of coastguard officers in a combined control centre with other enforcement agencies at Yarmouth’s harbour.

Former coastguard officer Paul Rice, county councillor for South Smallburgh, has won agreement at County Hall to challenge the government’s decision over changes to the service.

He said: “I’ve already put the idea of a combined control room to Mike Penning. If the harbour continues to expand at its current rate we would need more enforcement staff, and it could be a shared cost.”

A decision to close coastguard stations across the country - including Havenbridge House which employs 19 officers - was announced in November. But Norfolk County Council said it is to lobby the government to reverse its decision, due to fears a loss of local knowledge could cost lives.

And one idea for a compromise is to move the Havenbridge House centre to a combined control centre at the harbour. The lobbying action was agreed at full council on Monday, and councillors are building a robust case by speaking to those in the boating industry.

“The important thing is to get as many people as possible who will be affected by the change to make it clear that this is not what we want,” said Mr Rice.

“We feel the government has made the wrong decision.”

Under current plans, the number of coastguard stations will fall from 19 to 11 by March 2015. Government sources say sophisticated technology will ensure staff can deal with calls away from the locality.

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has argued that independent lifeboat services such as Caister and Hemsby will mean the region has both expert help from Humberside and local knowledge at hand. Humberside will operate a 24-hour coastguard station which will field calls from Yarmouth.

Richard Howitt, Norfolk and Suffolk Euro MP has led a campaign against the Yarmouth closure, warning that the decision will lead to a disaster.

To support Paul Rice’s campaign to save Yarmouth coastguard station, call 07920 286622 or email paul.rice@norfolk.gov.uk

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