Coastguard campaigners submit formal response
CAMPAIGNERS fighting controversial cuts to the UK Coastguard service have submitted their formal response to the Transport Select Committee Inquiry who are examining the affect that closures will have on coastal areas.
Despite two public consultations, the national Coastguard SOS Campaign Group remain concerned that the plan, which will see the closure of Coastguard rescue coordination centres at Liverpool, Brixham, Clyde, Portland, Thames, Swansea, Forth and Yarmouth remains dangerously flawed.
Speaking on behalf of the SOS group; Dennis O'Connor said: "The planned closure of Coastguard rescue coordination centres is not based upon operational reasoning.
"We are very concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect that the loss of stations will have on coastal communities and on the safety of those who use the coast for recreational and commercial purposes."
The Government plan is to centralise incident coordination responsibilities and distribute the workload to quieter stations.
Campaigners are adamant that this will increase the risks involved.
Mr O'Connor added: "The planned centralisation of incident coordination has been rejected by Coastguard officers and campaigners because essential local knowledge will be lost.
"The Maritime and Coastguard Agency are pinning everything on the trials of, as yet unproven technology to 'capture' local knowledge but with the first of the stations due to close in a matter of weeks it is highly likely that key knowledge will be lost."
In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Justine Greening MP was replaced as Secretary of State for Transport by Patrick McLoughlin MP and Mike Penning MP the UK Shipping Minister who has been a central figure in plans to close Coastguard stations was replaced by Stephen Hammond MP. Dennis O'Connor said "the recent reshuffle has brought fresh hope that the new Ministers will adopt more of an open dialogue approach and will urgently reconsider the closure programme. We have written to both Mr McLoughlin and Mr Hammond requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience in order that we may be able to assess the affect that the change in Ministers will have on the closure plans".
Submissions to the Transport Select Committee inquiry must be received no later than 14th September and the SOS campaign group are urging maritime stakeholders and the public to submit their concerns. Details of the inquiry may be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news/coastguard-tor/ or on the Coastguard SOS Campaign website http://www.coastguardsos.com