MP calls for answers to justify Chivenor move

15:50 08 January 2014

Chivenor Sea King search and rescue helicopter.

Chivenor Sea King search and rescue helicopter.

Archant

Update: Bristow and MCA respond to Nick Harvey calls for contractor Bristow to provide promised analysis of keeping search and rescue service in North Devon.

NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey has called for a private contractor to justify why search and rescue services are being removed from RMB Chivenor.

At a meeting with local representatives in October it was reported that helicopter company Bristow had agreed to look at the business case for keeping the service at Chivenor.

The company has been awarded the contract to run SAR services nationwide from April 2015, and the current plan is for the Chivenor flight is to be re-based at St Athan near Cardiff.

In a parliamentary question tabled yesterday (Tuesday) Mr Harvey asked the Department for Transport what had happened to the cost and viability analysis Bristow promised, as nothing had been heard since.

“SAR Chivenor has been at the heart of the community for decades, so understandably there is great anxiety at seeing it go,” he said.

“Local people deserve to know exactly what the perceived advantage is from moving the base to St Athan. It’s quite surprising Bristow didn’t undertake such analysis before making the decision.

“But having agreed to undertake the work retrospectively they must now come back with a robust analysis as soon as possible.”

Last autumn’s private meeting at the Civic Centre in Barnstaple saw representatives from the company meet with Mr Harvey, North Devon Council Leader Brian Greenslade and NDC chief executive Mike Mansell as well as leading senior councillors.

Bristow and the Department of Transport have argued the new faster Augusta Westland AW-192 helicopters proposed to replace the aging Sea Kings would mean no loss in service despite the move to South Wales.

But locally it is feared lives could be lost due to North Devon’s remoteness and difficult terrain, with calls for at least one aircraft to be based at Chivenor during daylight hours or busy periods.

In a joint statement, Bristow Helicopters and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We have offered to present an analysis of the incidents currently handled by the Chivenor helicopter and the response times under the new arrangements. We will make that information available to the council as soon as possible.

“Bristow and the MCA have been and remain open to engaging with the local council and the community on how the new service will operate in North Devon, and are due to discuss the new arrangements with our SAR operational partners in North Devon next week.”

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