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Council decide extra helicopter plea not needed
A BID to galvanise support to save Portland’s threatened Coastguard helicopter has been thwarted – because work is already being done.
In an attempt to step up the campaign to keep the lifesaving service, borough councillor Paul Kimber tried to get backing from fellow councillors for an idea to write to other local authorities in Dorset as well as the county’s MPs.
His plan was to get a formal letter sent from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council expressing ‘deep concern’ regarding the future of the search and rescue helicopter and the extra time it would take for another aircraft to arrive at an emergency in Dorset.
Coun Kimber’s notice of motion was defeated in a vote at a full meeting of the council after members heard other councils and MPs were well aware of the issue and were playing their part.
Portland will lose its helicopter in 2017 as part of government plans and the area will be covered by faster aircraft from Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, and other bases.
Campaigners argue lives will be lost off the Dorset coast if there is no locally-based aircraft.
An online e-petition and a paper petition have been launched to try and save the service. If the petition gets 100,000 signatures then it can prompt a debate on the issue in the House of Commons.
Coun Kimber, whose Portland Underhill ward covers the helicopter base at Osprey Quay, feels more should be done at local government level to support the campaign. He is supported by other Labour councillors.
Coun Kimber told the meeting: “I want the letter to be worded as such so we can get all local authorities and MPs to put the pressure on the government so we can protect this valuable service. We should be saying to the government that we need this service badly.”
Councillors were due to refer the issue to the management committee for further discussion but committee chairman Mike Goodman blocked the move.
He said: “At the risk of sounding like I don’t care about this, and I do most strongly, the inference from this notice of motion is that adjacent local authorities don’t care about this issue and are not doing anything, which is not true.
“MPs have been equally supportive, and in fact (South Dorset MP) Richard Drax has been running a campaign for the past 18 months, and there’s been unequivocal support from everyone.”