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Felixstowe: Volunteer coast rescue teams fear lives will be lost of Suffolk and Norfolk police control rooms merge

12:00 19 March 2014

John Cresswell

John Cresswell

A rescue service chairman fears the proposed merger of Suffolk and Norfolk’s police control rooms may be another nail in the coffin for public safety.

John Cresswell, of Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol Rescue, said sooner or later lives would be lost by emergency service 999 centres being located outside of Suffolk.

The ambulance service is currently situated in Hellesdon, near Norwich, while Suffolk fire crews are despatched by its centre in Cambridgeshire.

Last year it was revealed the search and rescue base at RAF Wattisham was to be moved to Manston Airport in Kent by the summer of 2017, while the nearest coastguard station is also due to close later this year. Serious issues over despatch problems within the ambulance service have been well-documented.

Mr Cresswell claimed there had also been issues with the fire service since the control room was moved.

In a letter to the EADT and Ipswich Star, he said: “Some of us work very hard to maintain the county’s excellent safety record, but nevertheless our blue-light services are gradually, but surely, being fragmented by bureaucrats away from the frontline.

“We are all aware of the sorry state of our ambulance service controlled from Norfolk. Our fire and rescue is controlled from Cambridge. Our nearest coastguard rescue centre is closing this year and we will be controlled by either Dover or Humber Coastguard some 160 miles away.

“Wattisham Search and Rescue is set to be withdrawn and now we have the proposed transfer of the Martlesham police control room. When did vital local knowledge fail to be a consideration? Even with the best available technology there is no substitute for sound local knowledge. Undoubtedly, sooner or later, sadly, a life or lives will be lost due to the dire lack of local knowledge.”

Commenting on Mr Cresswell’s remarks, Mark Sanderson, Suffolk’s deputy chief fire officer, said: “Our combined fire control staff successfully deal with thousands of 999 calls every year and work with firefighters to ensure that we respond quickly and diligently when called upon to help those in need. Our first priority is to protect people and we will continue to do this.”

To take part in the EADT’s online survey about whether the Suffolk control room should be merged with Norfolk click here

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