THE death knell is sounding for the coastguard control room in Weymouth after it emerged the building was being put on the market.
The Dorset Echo-backed Save Our Lifesavers campaign has tried to persuade government ministers to rethink a decision to close Portland Coastguard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and move controllers to a hub near Southampton.
It is feared local knowledge and expertise will be lost in the move.
The coastguard control room is not due to close until September but South Dorset MP Richard Drax, who has been central in the Save Our lifesavers campaign, has received news of the building’s sell off.
He said the decision was ‘deeply regrettable.’ Mr Drax received a letter from Transport Minister Stephen Hammond in which he explained the government’s decision to market the coastguard site from the end of May.
Mr Drax said: “We have known for some time that sadly, the campaign by South Dorset residents to save our lifesavers has been ignored. The MRCC will be closed and with it, goes an unparalleled repository of local knowledge and expertise.
“As anyone who has followed this saga will know, the MRCCs are to be replaced with two, national Marine Operations Centres which are expected to coordinate and direct rescue assets, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
“We have always relied upon the local knowledge of the men and women manning our MRCCs. With all the coves, bays and currents along the South Dorset coast, their expertise could make the difference between life and death.
‘Now, we are told that ‘networked’ computers will do the job for them. Coastguards call it “rescue by Google”. I call it deeply regrettable.
Mr Drtax added: “The Weymouth MRCC does not actually close until September this year, with all the operations then being moved to the Fareham MOC. However, the MCA, under the Department for Transport, has chosen to press on with selling the site now, with the Minister hoping for vacant possession in October 2014.
“While I understand that unused buildings fall into disrepair, this haste does appear to be unseemly and certainly, would add credence to the view that once again, as with the Portland SAR helicopter, cost cutting matters more than life saving.”