Lancashire police helicopter base closure will be 'devastating'

A Gwent Police helicopter
Image caption Five police helicopter bases have closed and a further three will shut by 2017

The closure of a police helicopter base in Lancashire will be "devastating" for communities, the force's federation has said.

Lancashire Police Federation's chairwoman Rachel Baines said the closure of the base at Warton presents "a real concern around public safety".

It is one of eight National Police Air Service (NPAS) bases that will shut by April 2017 due to a 14% budget cut.

NPAS said the 15 remaining 24-hour bases will "protect" communities.

Sites in Barton, Greater Manchester, and Hawarden, Cheshire, will provide police air cover on the Fylde coast.

'Winding down'

Ms Baines said helicopters will need to come "from much, much further afield", adding "we will not see anywhere near the same level of service."

"I personally think it's going to be devastating to the communities from Blackpool and North Blackpool.

"In terms of response times, pursuits, missing people, vulnerable people - the sort of thing the helicopter is really good at, we're just not going to have that resource available to us."

Campaigners claim NPAS is "winding down" the Warton base and reducing it to a fuelling station in advance of the April closure.

On Facebook, Save the Lancashire Police Helicopter Base has questioned how response times will be maintained, saying "the North of the country is struggling now".

'Extensive modelling'

NPAS said it will continue to run its usual 12-hour service at the site with two full crews until April.

Two officers have been redeployed to Barton.

NPAS is "normally" able to reach 92% of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes and this will not change with the reduction to 15 bases, a spokeswoman said.

The figure for a 30-minute response time will drop from 98% to 97%, she said.

Ch Supt Tyron Joyce said NPAS has used "extensive modelling", including factors such as demand and population density, to "determine the optimum sites" in order to "provide a truly borderless service".

NPAS has already closed five bases - Rhuddlan, Halfpenny Green, Pembrey, Ripley and Sheffield.

In addition to Warton, Durham Tees Valley and Wattisham will shut by April 2017.

Bases at Husbands Bosworth and Lippitts Hill, which had been marked for closure, will now remain open.

Four helicopters may be cut from the 23 in service but a new base in Doncaster is planned with four new aeroplanes.

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