NEW plans could see Portland remain as a facility for helicopters after the closure of the coastguard search and rescue base in 2017.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax has been working with HeliOperations – a company supplying trained helicopter personnel to companies worldwide – on a business plan for the Portland helicopter base site at Osprey Quay.

The move could secure the future of the site as a helicopter training facility after a coastguard government contract comes to an end in 2017. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency rents the site from the Homes and Communities Agency and it will hand the site back to the HCA in 2017.

Under the new business plan, a search and rescue presence would not be kept at the site – but it could potentially allow the site to maintain the capability to refuel helicopters.

Mr Drax said this was very important as it meant any coastguard helicopters on a rescue mission would have somewhere to refuel, as well as providing skilled work opportunities for people in the area.

The current MCA site would become the head office for HeliOperations. The company provides training for the helicopter industry, oil and gas industry, the luxury super yacht sector and search and rescue crew.

The business plan states: “The property is ideally located and designed as an operating centre from where training for industry and military support can be provided for local and international clients.

“The proposed HeliOperations facility will employ up to 30 people and provide opportunities for people in the area to enter this high value industry.”

The business plan suggests a phased approach to taking over the site starting next year, taking the facility through from the search and rescue closedown in 2017, to being fully operational by 2019.

The business plan concludes: “If Portland helicopter base were closed or put to another use, it would lose its captive career-generating capability for the people of Portland and it would in all likelihood be an irreversible decision.”

The next stage of the plan is to have meetings with the HCA about a potential lease.

CEO of the company Steve Gladston, who was in the Fleet Air Arm and trained at Portland on Sea King helicopters, said he was very fond of the area.

He said he wanted people to get in touch and tell them what they thought of the plans.

Mr Gladston said: “One of the reasons we are really keen on doing it, is we believe the people of Weymouth and Portland would support it.”