Concerns over Coastguard shake up in Great Yarmouth

Waveney MP Peter Aldous yesterday raised widespread regional concerns about the planned coastguard service shake-up, during a debate at Westminster.

While recognising the need for a review of the service after 40 years, and welcoming proposals to fully use new technology, he said the planned closure of Great Yarmouth coastguard station had created worry and anxiety along the East Anglian coast.

He said if the proposals were accepted, “there will be no centres between Dover and the Humber at a time when the seas off East Anglia are getting busier”.

Mr Aldous said an issue that would be raised time and again in the debate would be how the new arrangements – involving halving the number of coastguard stations – would make best use of local knowledge.

Describing local knowledge as “the putty that you stick in the gaps in the first five minutes of an incident”, he warned that if it was not there, the outcome could be tragic.

He said: “The main worry people have is that, without local centres, it will be more difficult for the coastguard to make best use of local knowledge which can be invaluable at times when the service is stretched.”

The highest risks occurred in the summer with leisure vessels, often crewed by people who might not know the area. In such a scenario, local knowledge could be absolutely critical.

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Mr Aldous raised the particular issue of the Broads where Yarmouth coastguards had detailed knowledge of potentially treacherous areas such as Breydon Water.