East Anglia: Anger at decision to close coastguard centre in Great Yarmouth

Anger at decision to close coastguard centre

Coastguard campaigners have reacted angrily to confirmation that the closure of Great Yarmouth’s control centre will go ahead in May next year.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has announced that operations at Yarmouth will be taken over from May 1 by the Humber and Thames Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs), which will monitor the coast from Gayton Le Marsh in Lincolnshire to Southwold in Suffolk.

Meanwhile, Thames MRCC, based at Walton-on-the-Naze, in Essex, remains on the list of other stations due to close as part of the Government’s proposed modernisation of the coastguard service.

National Coastguard SOS Campaigners have criticised the timing of the closure at Yarmouth, which is now scheduled to happen before the proposed national network system becomes fully operational.

Proposals include the closure of eight of the UK’s 17 coastguard stations but also set out the installation of new technology in those that remain.

Staff at Yarmouth’s centre, based in Havenbridge House, have been offered redeployment within the service and the MCA insists there will be no reduction in front line rescue resources - with availability of lifeboats, rescue helicopters, rescue teams and other rescue facilities in the area promised to remain unaffected.

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Sir Alan Massey, chief executive of the MCA said: “Safety is our top priority and I am confident that HM Coastguard will maintain the same high quality search and rescue service as they always have done.”

But Dennis O’Connor, of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, has condemned the closure going ahead before the replacement centralised call centre in Hampshire has become operational. He said: “The Government and MCA appear intent on this reckless closure plan despite dire warnings of its consequence.”

Since the beginning of the year the closure of the Yarmouth station had been expected before June 2013, when the service’s lease expires at Havenbridge House, but a date has yet to be confirmed.

Thames MRCC is also due to close as part of the reorganisation, which has seen the closure of Forth, and is soon to include the closure of Clyde, in Scotland.