England

Thousands sign bid to keep coastguard base in Dorset

Solent Coastguard helicopter rescuing a cyclist who got stuck in mudflats at East Head, Chichester Harbour, West Sussex in July last year
Image caption Campaigners say keeping the maritime centre at Portland is the right decision

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition for a new coastguard base to be in Dorset and not Hampshire.

Under government proposals announced in July, Portland coastguard station is among eight in the UK under threat.

Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond said Solent and Portland's coastguards would be merged and operate from a new, bigger, centre by the Solent.

Portland coastguard officers have launched the petition for the new centre to be built in Portland instead.

'Geographical advantage'

Campaigner Sarah Callaby-Brown, one of 25 coastguard officers based at Portland, said: "Under the new proposals we're going to have Falmouth coastguard and Dover coastguard and the central point would be somewhere around here.

"So we have got that geographical advantage if it was here, as well as the local knowledge that other people won't have."

Mike Goodman from Weymouth and Portland Borough Council said: "We're not arguing with the decision to merge the coastguard operations.

"But we believe there are significant advantages for the Maritime Coastguard Agency by locating it here, as there's a great deal going on in the area."

The final location of the new Maritime Operations Centre is under consultation and still to be decided, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

It will have 96 staff, which will include watch keeping officers, search and rescue co-ordinators and regular coastguard staff.

The staff will operate 24 hours a day all through the year and will oversee eight sub-centres at Falmouth, Holyhead, Milford Haven, Belfast, Aberdeen, Humber, Stornaway and Shetland.

The government plans cut the number of UK stations from 18 to 10. A consultation on the plan finishes in October.

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