Suffolk Coast: Campaigners urged not to give up the fight against coastguard changes

CAMPAIGNERS have stepped up the battle against a controversial shake-up of coastguard services.

A new group has been formed in a bid to support the under threat Havenbridge House in Great Yarmouth. Its closure, expected next year, is part of a Government move to reduce the number of coastguard stations in the UK from 19 to 11. The Thames Coastguard station at Walton-on-the-Naze will also be axed.

They will be replaced by a maritime operations centre in Hampshire - officially unveiled in July - that will handle emergency calls from across the UK.

But campaigners are urging people not to give up the fight and to continue to press Whitehall for a U-turn. Great Yarmouth resident Matthew Smith contacted the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group and offered to set up a local branch.

He said: “Local knowledge is key for the coastguard and if you take away local stations then you lose that.” Mr Smith, who runs the UK Independence Party in Great Yarmouth, said he was motivated by more than just politics. “A number of people we have spoken to are concerned about the closure,” he said. “However it’s more than just a political point - lives will be put at risk. We are very happy to work with any party who feels this terrible idea should be scrapped.”

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The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee (TSC) is investigating the closure plan and how the changes are being implemented.

Dennis O’Connor, of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, said: “We are delighted there is a fresh groundswell of opposition and we intend to offer our full support to the new campaign group as we fight for the retention of the station at Yarmouth. The key message is that it’s not too late. The decision by the TSC to further investigate the closure plan is an indication of the level of concern.”

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When he announced the shake-up former Shipping Minister Mike Penning said the changes would create a 21st century service. He told the Commons he understood concerns but the shake-up would deliver a modernised, nationally networked, fully resilient service that would give better support to volunteers and front-line rescue capabilities.

N For details on the Great Yarmouth group contact

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