DORSET’s Police helicopter could soon be operating out of Bournemouth International Airport, under new cost-cutting measures.

And here are fears that the extra flying time to the west of the county could have a detrimental effect on crime-fighting in he area.

The force is a step closer to sharing its helicopter with neighbouring counties in a new national scheme.

After a report given to the Dorset Police Authority by Chief Constable Martin Baker , members agreed in principle to the move.

It could see the force share a service with Hampshire Police and Devon and Cornwall.

The service, which costs the force almost £2m a year, is currently based at Dorset Police HQ in Winfrith.

By providing officers on the ground with a bird’s eye view, the helicopter can help keep track of suspects and search for missing people.

From its base at Winfrith the aircraft can reach all parts of the force in around 15 minutes.

Mr Baker told members the service was an ‘excellent asset for Dorset’ but proved to be ‘quite expensive for a small force’.

He added: “We’re not abandoning anything in operational terms.

“The move of the helicopter to Bournemouth is to the place it is deployed the majority of the time.”

But John Jones, assistant chief officer, reminded members that the move to Bournemouth would increase the flying time to West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland .

As part of cost-saving measures, the force has to make £18m of cuts in four years. In the report it claims more than £450,000 each year could be saved through the plans.

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) is a scheme aimed to merge air support in England and Wales.

It will reduce the number of police helicopters across England and Wales from 33 to 23.

The South East region, which includes Hampshire, will be one of the first to join NPAS and this is scheduled for October 1.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Councillor Mike Byatt said: “The most important thing as far as West Dorset and this side of the county are concerned is that the police authorities can respond to all incidents from the other side of the county.”