CAMPAIGNERS proudly delivered a 108,500 signature-strong petition to Number 10 calling on the government to save Portland coastguard helicopter.
Today’s petition hand-in is the culmination of 18-months of signature collecting and hard work by campaigners who say the Portland coastguard helicopter is ‘vital’ to the Dorset coastline and must stay.
Under government plans the helicopter is facing the axe in 2017. The government says a new fleet of helicopters operating from 10 bases across the UK will be able to get to incidents faster but campaigners argue that lives will be lost.
Campaigners Belinda Craig, Debbie Joy, Roger MacPherson, Shelley Cutler, Sandra West, Patricia Joy, Dr Ian Mew and Richard Drax delivered the petition to the iconic black doors of Number 10 earlier this afternoon.
Mrs Craig’s son Jack was one of the three fishermen who died when the Weymouth fishing boat Purbeck Isle was lost off the Dorset coast in 2012.
The Portland helicopter was involved in the search for the fishing boat.
She said the petition had been a culmination of 18 months hard work and the campaign had covered Dorset, Lee-on-Solent, the Isle of Wight and down to Cornwall. They had even been getting signatures on the train to London.
She said: “I’d just like to say a huge, huge thank you to everybody that has signed the campaign. Everyone has been so supportive.”
Mrs Craig said the campaigners want to see a new debate on keeping the helicopter. She said: “It’s vital.”
Debbie Joy thanked the more than 200 companies that had helped them collect signatures. She said: “They are amazing- we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Dr Ian Mew is a consultant on intensive care and director of major trauma unit at Dorset County Hospital. He praised the campaigners and said he believed ‘without a doubt’ that lives would be lost if the helicopter left Portland.
Sandra West thanked everyone who had signed the petition- either online or the paper petition.
Roger MacPherson said the day was a culmination of the campaigners’ hard work and he hoped the government would listen.
Mr Drax paid tribute to all the campaigners for all their hard work. He said: “I’d like to congratulate Belinda and her team for a remarkable feat of getting 108,500 signatures. It’s an incredible feat and only reinforces all our views about the significance of our helicopter and the importance of its retention.”
Looking to the future the campaigners hope the petition hand in will spark a new debate on the issue in the House of Commons.
Government e-petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures can trigger a debate in the House of Commons.
Mr Drax said he will continue to talk to the government about the retention of the Portland helicopter and will be again writing to the minister on the issue.
HELICOPTER campaigners said they wanted to give a special thank you to the following businesses for their help and support: Tom at Abbotsbury Fishing Tackle, Mark at Beer fish and chip shop, Poole Tyres, Parkstone Car Care, Amelia at Avonheath cafe, Alexandra’s fish and chip shop, Brian Traves at the RNLI lifeboat museum, Freshwater Beach Holiday Park, Vines farm shop and butchers and Vines Country Kitchen, Mr Derosa, Brixinton fish and chips, Mother Kelly's in Emsworth, Mr Needs at Frydays, G Hayter and Sons, Lakeside fish and chips and Ahmed at Barnacles fish and chips.