East Anglia: ‘Move forward’ for coastguard campaigners

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to the closure of coastguard centres around the UK, including East Anglia’s only two bases, are claiming a “significant move forward” in their attempt to block plans.

Their announcement follows an invitation by the Transport Committee for written evidence on the possible impact of Government changes to the coastguard service.

Budget-saving proposals for closing half the UK’s coastguard rescue coordination centres, including Great Yarmouth and Walton-on-the-Naze over the next two years, have already sparked action, with union members walking out as part of continuing public sector strikes.

If Yarmouth and Walton were to close, the nearest centres to East Anglia would be Dover and Humber, with a “super control centre” on the South Coast.

The cross-party Transport Committee announced it would be inviting further evidence on the issues raised during last year’s inquiry into proposals to halve the 18 centres currently based around the UK coast.

Dennis O’Connor, national Coastguard SOS campaign coordinator, said: “I am pleased to have received confirmation that the Transport Committee are to gather further evidence of concerns regarding the closure of coastguard rescue coordination centres.

“This is a significant move forward in our campaign and suggests that evidence of concerns that has already been submitted to members of the Transport Committee is being taken very seriously by them.”

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This week Prime Minister, David Cameron, had to issue a clarification after he responded to a letter from a constituent by suggesting that coastguard stations planned for closure would “remain open until 2015”.

Campaigners briefly celebrated a temporary reprieve until the statement was contradicted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which insisted station closures would go ahead as planned.

Mr Cameron’s office later issued letter of clarification. Mr O’Connor said the error had given “false hope to already beleaguered staff at those stations scheduled for closure”.

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