The government has scaled back plans to close over half the UK's coastguard centres, but stations including Brixham and Swansea still face the axe
Following the damning report from the Transport Select Committee last month into the modernisation of the coastguard, it was only a matter of time before the government announced amended proposals, and today it did just that, announcing that eight stations would close instead of the earmarked 10.
In a Parliamentary statement today, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced that the government now plans to set up a maritime operations centre in the Southampton/Portsmouth area with a back-up facility at Dover and eight sub centres that will operate a 24-hour service. The eight sub centres will be based at: Falmouth, Milford Haven, Holyhead, Belfast, Stornoway, Shetland, Aberdeen and Humber. The small station at London will also be retained.
Hammond said, “”Our updated proposals will ensure the safety of seafarers and coastal communities, delivering the modernised and more cost-effective service we need for the 21st century, while also responding to the concerns raised during the consultation process.”
The government announced its original plans to close 10 of the existing 18 coastguard coordination centres around the country in December 2010. Under the original plans, of the eight remaining stations only three were due to operate a 24-hour service, with the remaining five operating during daylight hours only.
Over the past few months the government has come under mounting pressure to water down its proposals amid claims that they did not carry out adequate risk assessments to see how the service would cope with the closure of so many stations.
Under the amended proposals, 10 stations will remain open 24 hours. The stations still earmarked for closure are: Swansea, Brixham, Clyde, Forth, Portland, Liverpool, Yarmouth and the Thames. In addition, the station at Solent will be replaced by a maritime operations centre somewhere in the Portsmouth/Southampton area. These stations will be closed “progressively” between 2012 and 2014/15.
There will now be a 12-week consultation period on the changes that “differ from the original proposals”. The consultation period will end on 6 October.