Thousands join battle to save Brixham coastguards ahead of mass demonstration
THE future of Brixham Coastguard Station is to be hotly debated by back bench MPs in London on Thursday.
Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston was instrumental in calling for the dialogue to help raise the profile of controversial plans to close Brixham and nine other stations, leaving only three 24-hour operational centres nationally.
The debate is due to take place in the House of Commons on the same day as a mass protest rally is being held in Brixham, followed by a public meeting in the port organised by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Dr Wollaston said: "We have had a debate about the proposals in Westminster Hall and now we are having one in the House of Commons, which will give the issue a higher profile and hopefully we will have longer to speak.
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"The strength of feeling is very strong on this and it's one issue that unites all seven parties. It's extraordinary.
"The Transport Select Committee is doing a brief inquiry. It's all mounting up.
"When the Brixham coastguards came to visit the transport minister Michael Penning in London a few weeks ago, he did say if they wanted to bring forward their own proposals he would seriously consider them.
"I am waiting to hear back from them to see how they would change the proposals and I will support them in that."
Thursday's mass demonstration in support of the Herald Express Save Our Station campaign to save Brixham Coastguard has been organised by Brixham town councillor Vic Ellery, who hopes thousands of people will descend on the port.
Almost 5,000 people have now signed the Herald Express SOS coupons (see below) with yesterday's total standing at 4,982.
The protest march will start at Brixham's South Quay at 2pm and march to the coastguard station at King's Quay to make a stand against axing the rescue co-ordination centre with the loss of 24 jobs.
Speakers who will address the rally include Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, who represents the local fishing industry.
Cllr Ellery said: "We want to make a real impact and I urge people to bring whistles and home-made banners.
"This fight is not about jobs, it's not about Brixham, it's not even about fundraising — it's about lives, our lives, the people of South Devon and Torbay who work on, live with and enjoy the coast and the sea."
The event has been organised to take place on the same day as the independently chaired public meeting being held at Brixham College at 7.30pm to give people the chance to ask questions and air their views.
The MCA said the meeting will also provide an opportunity for the community to hear more about the plans.
In 2010 Brixham handled 1,559 incidents.
Campaigners say lives could be at risk because rescue operations would be hampered by a lack of local knowledge.
Government officials say the closures would save an estimated £120million over the next 25 years — just under £4.8million a year.