Rescue centres campaign

Hartlepool fisherman Phil Walsh
Hartlepool fisherman Phil Walsh

PEOPLE are being urged to back a campaign against Government cuts to a lifesaving service.

A meeting is planned later this month on Government proposals to modernise HM Coastguard services by closing 10 of the 18 Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres that operate around the UK coast.

Only three of the centres will remain operational 24-hours-a-day, based in Aberdeen, Southampton and Dover, and five others, including Humber Coastguard station that runs operations between the Scottish borders and Lincolnshire, will operate during daylight hours only.

The change will mean that the closest centre for operations in Hartlepool and east Durham will be Aberdeen, on the coast of Scotland.

People are now being urged to give their opinion on the plans, which have previously been described by Hartlepool fisherman Phil Walsh as “a disgrace”.

After the plans were revealed, Mr Walsh said: “To take Humber away from being a 24-hour service is a disgrace. The Coastguard plays the key role in the launching of helicopters and lifeboats. Cutting any emergency service definitely jeopardises lives.”

More than a third of the incidents dealt with by the Humber Coastguard in 2010 happened during the hours of darkness.

Paul Chapman, watch officer at Humber Coastguard, who is also the union representative for the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: “The modernisation plans are seriously flawed and we are concerned for the safety implications to the mariner and coastal users in our area of operation.

“We believe that taking away the local knowledge built up over years by the coastguard officers at Humber Coastguard could unnecessarily put lives at risk and strongly believe that Humber Coastguard should be retained as a 24-hour station.”

A public meeting is being held at the Spa in South Marine Drive, Bridlington, on Monday, February 21, from 7pm until 9pm and will be the only public meeting to be held between the River Humber and the Scottish Border.

Anyone who is opposed to the cuts, can support the campaign by signing an online petition which can be found by logging onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and selecting the link in this story.

Fears are growing that the proposals could jeopardise lives along the whole of the North-East coast.

l What’s your view? Write to the Mail at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool TS24 8BX, log on to www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk or email mail.news@northeast-press.co.uk