Slim hope for a Chivenor search and rescue service
- Credit: Archant
Local leaders continue to press case for keeping one aircraft in North Devon.
THERE is still some hope a search and rescue helicopter could remain at Chivenor when the service is privatised in 2015.
Local leaders say the ‘door is still open’ following a meeting in Barnstaple this morning (Friday) between Sir Nick Harvey MP, members of North Devon Council and representatives from the Department of Transport plus private contractor Bristow.
The visitors agreed to at least look at the business case for keeping one aircraft based in North Devon when the main service moves to St Athan Airport in South Wales.
Mr Harvey will also ask a parliamentary question in the House of Commons.
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The local campaigners have argued long and hard that Chivenor is the second busiest search and rescue station in the UK.
They say despite the new faster Augusta Westland AW-192 helicopters being brought in, lives could be saved if one aircraft was kept at Chivenor during daylight hours and busy times.
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“It’s been heard and they are prepared to do the formal work on it,” North Devon Council Leader Brian Greenslade said after the meeting.
“We would like to be able to say the service will stay in North Devon, but I don’t think we really expected that. That we managed to get them down here is a positive.”
Also at the meeting were councillors Rodney Cann, Des Brailey and Mike Edmunds, plus NDC chief executive Mike Mansell.
Mr Greenslade said they had also asked what the flying times would be for the new helicopters from St Athan to North Devon and were told 12 minutes. It is thought the time from the other proposed base in Newquay would be around 18 minutes.
Mr Harvey added: “It’s disappointing Bristow is ploughing ahead regardless of anything anyone says to them.
“This hasn’t even been consulted on with local communities. However, if they are determined to do this, we will monitor the situation closely and raise alarms straight away if they are not living up to the promises they have made.”
Deputy leader of the council, Rodney Cann said he felt today’s result was predictable: “We have received reassurances they will monitor the service and report back to us in a year or so.
“They will also investigate the possibility of having a sleeping base in North Devon where the helicopter could refuel in extreme circumstances. I am also assured we will still be able to call on them to help feed animals stranded on the moors during extreme weather conditions, which is an issue of great importance to our moorland farmers.”
Shadow Leader Cllr Des Brailey said he was disappointed to hear Bristow was unlikely to base a helicopter at Chivenor.
“While the new helicopters are very much more advanced than the ageing Sea King, we are hoping the service Bristow offers will not be denigrated,” he said.
“To this end, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Bristow have agreed to meet with the MP and councillors again, once the service is up and running.”