CAMPAIGNERS are hoping for a reprieve for the threatened Portland Coastguard helicopter after raising a 100,000-strong petition calling for it to stay.

The petition, which will be delivered to the iconic black door of Number 10 Downing Street next Tuesday, calls on ministers to think again about the Portland-based lifesaving aircraft.

The coastguard helicopter base is due to close in 2017 as part of government cost-cutting plans.

Emergencies in Dorset will be attended by helicopters from Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire or from Cornwall.

The Department for Transport has said modern helicopters operating from fewer bases will provide a better service.

But opponents argue it is just a money saving exercise and claim that lives will be lost.

Government e-petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures can trigger a debate in the House of Commons.

Sandra West, one of the campaigners, said that everyone had worked very hard to get the 100,000 signatures and she hoped it would make the government rethink their plans.

She said it was ‘sheer madness’ to remove the helicopter from Portland.

She said: “We are just not going to let this go. We will fight it to the bitter end.”

Mrs West added: “Surely the government must look at this again and have a rethink about what’s going to happen.”

Campaigner Roger Macpherson said it was a remarkable achievement to get 100,000 signatures from a small area.

He said: “To get 100,000 signatures in this area is amazing.”

Mr Macpherson said the campaigners would like to give a big thank you to everyone who helped to collect the signatures and everyone who signed the petition.

He said: “All the hard work’s paid off. We got our target.”

Without the helicopter the campaigners believe there will be more fatalities, Mr Macpherson said.

He added: “If it was taken away it can never come back. The cost of reinstating it would be far greater than if we kept it on.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax, pictured left, paid tribute to the hard work of the helicopter campaigners.

He said: “I would like to reiterate my thanks to all the campaigners, who have gone to considerable trouble and time to collect over 100,000 signatures. It’s a remarkable achievement.”

He added: “I hope at this last minute that the sheer volume of signatures will ring a bell in government circles, that the retention of Portland search and rescue helicopter is essential.”