Search and rescue move: MP calls for facts and figures

Chivenor Sea King search and rescue helicopter.

Chivenor Sea King search and rescue helicopter. - Credit: Archant

Better harbour facilities at Ilfracombe could boost RNLI rescue capabilities, claims Nick Harvey.

More facts and figures needed: North Devon MP Nick Harvey.

More facts and figures needed: North Devon MP Nick Harvey. - Credit: Archant

NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey said he wants to see ‘all the numbers’ following the announcement that Chivenor is set to lose its search and rescue helicopters.

Mr Harvey is calling on the Department for Transport and its chosen supplier of the new service to explain in detail how and why they have decided to move the operation 50 miles to St Athan in South Wales in 2015.

A £1.6 billion contact to run the rescue service in the UK has been awarded to American firm Bristow Helicopters Ltd, ending more than 70 years of cover by the RAF and Royal Marines.

Mr Harvey said: “All the infrastructure exists at Chivenor and will have to be replaced, and moving the personnel to Wales will cost money. I want to see the details of how they have come to the view that moving the service makes financial sense.


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“In logistical and operational terms, I would also like a fuller explanation of why St Athan is believed to be a better base, when Chivenor has performed so well for so long.

“Of course the facility, wherever located, is to provide a regional and not a local service, but I have had people contacting me worried about longer response times in our locality.

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“Interestingly, Ilfracombe is due to get the RNLI’s new state-of-the-art Shannon class lifeboat next year. If this new lifeboat could be kept afloat, rather than stationed ashore, then response times to local ‘shouts’ would be reduced significantly.

“But for this to happen Ilfracombe needs better harbour infrastructure. If the Department for Transport could make a small one-off payment, it could help to save lives in our locality. This would also be an extra potential marine asset during the construction of the Atlantic Array, should it get consent.

“I am asking Transport Minister Stephen Hammond for answers to these points, and to meet me with North Devon representatives including district council leader Brian Greenslade and Ilfracombe county councillor Geoff Fowler.”

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