Petition to save Portland coastguard helicopter handed in

Dorset Echo: South Dorset MP Richard Drax meeting Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond South Dorset MP Richard Drax meeting Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond

A PETITION demanding the Government reverses its decision to close Portland coastguard helicopter base has been handed in to parliament.

The document, with more than 100,000 signatures, urges the Department for Transport to abandon plans to close the chopper base in 2017.

The petition read: “Petitioners believe that there may be lives lost as a result of losing this search and rescue facility.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax, who has been at the forefront in the campaign to save the Portland base, said: “Our fight to retain the helicopter continues.”

Mr Drax believes the planned service to replace the Portland helicopter will “fall short of requirements.”

Speaking after meeting Department for Transport representatives earlier this year, Mr Drax said: “Twenty five per cent of all call outs in the UK happen in our area. All of those must be attended to within what the emergency services call the 'golden hour'.

“That is the first hour, after which casualties' chances of survival decrease with time.”

Campaigners are angry at Whitehall plans to deploy helicopters from Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, and Culdrose in Cornwall, to cover emergencies in Dorset and off the Jurassic Coast.

Mr Drax said it could take around 40 to 55minutes for these aircraft to start up and arrive on scene.

Sea King search and rescue helicopters are provided from eight military bases by the Ministry of Defence. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency operates its helicopters from four civilian bases.

However, the government believes modern helicopters operating from fewer bases will provide a better service.

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