Why move helicopters from Chivenor?

The iconic Sea King search and rescue helicopter will be mothballed in 2015 as the service is privat

The iconic Sea King search and rescue helicopter will be mothballed in 2015 as the service is privatised and moved away from North Devon. - Credit: Archant

Region‘s leaders quiz government on plans to privatise and move search and rescue cover from North Devon.

NORTH Devon MP Nick Harvey and North Devon Council Leader Brian Greenslade have quizzed the government and helicopter company Bristow on the wisdom of plans to remove search and rescue services from Chivenor.

They met Transport Minister Stephen Hammond in Parliament yesterday (Thursday), joined by representatives from Bristow, which is taking over all SAR services from the Ministry of Defence.

Helicopters will move from Chivenor to St Athan in South Wales from 2015 and the iconic yellow Sea Kings mothballed.

Outlining their concerns, Mr Harvey and Mr Greenslade challenged the logic of moving one of the country’s busiest and consistently well-performing SAR stations and pressed for a full explanation for the change.

“The decision to move SAR services to South Wales seems to have been taken on the basis of improving flying times to incident ‘hotspots’ and arrangements between the helicopter company and the MOD,” said Mr Harvey.

“Chivenor has been at the heart of the community for decades, but the lack of communication from Bristow to reassure local people that the move will not compromise North Devon’s safety has been very disappointing.

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“We have a unique coastline and local people deserve a guarantee that pilots’ expert local knowledge will not be lost in the move.”

Mr Greenslade added: “While on the face of it the new service looks set to improve flying times to incidents and continues round-the-clock cover for the area, questions remain about why the SAR service is being moved from such a geographically superior location as Chivenor, with excellent access to the region’s coastline.

“Chivenor is still a perfectly good working base, so surely there might be some room for compromise – for example, forward positioning a helicopter in North Devon during peak times or holidays?

“This would go a long way to reassuring the local community of the capacity and flexibility of the SAR service to deal with incidents.”

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