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Final effort to save Yarmouth coastguard service

PUBLISHED: 16:24 18 August 2011 | UPDATED: 16:37 18 August 2011

Hemsby PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2008 (01603 772434)

Hemsby PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY: FOR:EDP NEWS © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2008 (01603 772434)

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2008

A FORMER coastguard rescue officer is making a last-ditch attempt to save Norfolk’s coastguard service from the government axe.

Paul Rice, county councillor for South Smallburgh division, is urging people to sign a petition to rescue the Great Yarmouth coastguard station, which has been earmarked for closure between 2012 and 2014/15.

The councillor, who worked as a rescue officer in Winterton, has only a matter of months to make his voice heard before the consultation period finishes on October 6.

The proposed cuts by transport secretary Philip Hammond will see eight stations closing across England, Scotland and Wales. Up to 30 people will lose their jobs in Yarmouth at Havenbridge House, as well as a further 24 people at the station on Walton on the Naze, Essex – also set for closure.

It is believed the Norfolk coastline and the Broads would be covered by coastguard stations in Southampton, Bridlington in Yorkshire and Dover.

Mr Rice vowed to fight for the local service which he says will create delays to emergency services and put lives at risk if it is shut down.

He said: “The coverage is going to be very remote if the Great Yarmouth coastguard station is closed. You can use GPS to guide the emergency services to a destination, but without having the control room in the county and people with local knowledge, it will take up valuable time.

“I can understand the need to save money, but I believe the last area you should cut is the emergency services.

“We saw just how affective the coastguard can be when they helped coordinate the rescue of the young girl who buried beneath the sand at Caister.”

Peter Wheeler, union representative for Yarmouth coastguard, said: “The loss of local knowledge is the biggest problem Norfolk will face with the cut backs.

“There is a big area to cover in the county and the replacement station will not have the in depth knowledge that we have.”

Ross Hewitt, coxswain for Hemsby Inshore Lifeboat, feels any station replacing Yarmouth will face problems when directing the emergency services around the Broads.

He claims the local of knowledge of coastguards at Yarmouth means they can direct lifeboats to areas on the waterways which do not appear on a map.

He said: “You will be losing valuable time if it takes you longer to get to the scene. Without the local knowledge of the Yarmouth station, it could lead to loss of life.”

MP for Yarmouth, Brandon Lewis, has written a letter to parliament to get reassurance that volunteer lifeboat stations will continue to receive support even if Yarmouth coastguard station is closed.

Speaking about the coastguard station, he said: “The coastguard themselves have made the case that due to the improved capacity and extra people working on the frontline with lifeboat teams and volunteers, it will actually be safer.

“But I do support the principal of the petition as I would prefer to see the jobs and the office stay in Great Yarmouth than go elsewhere.”

The 30 Yarmouth coastguard staff provide coverage as far north as Haile Sand Fort in Lincolnshire to Southwold.

Stations set to close are in Crosby, Clyde, Forth, Portland, Yarmouth, Brixham, Thames and Swansea.

Meanwhile, Falmouth, Holyhead, Milford Haven, Belfast, Aberdeen, Humber, Stornaway and Shetland are due remain open, and a smaller station in London will be retained.

l If you wish to sign the petition, contact Paul Rice on 07920286622 or email paul.rice@norfolk.gov.uk


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