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Thursday 14 July 2011

Falmouth Coastguard to stay in business - 24/7.

SAR services from RNAS Culdrose will continue to be co-ordinated by Falmouth Coastguard.

Round-the-clock coastguard cover in Cornwall has been saved after a Government U-turn.Ministers are expected to announce today that Falmouth coastguard station will operate 24-hours a day under revised plans. It was threatened with only being open during daylight.
However, the South Devon coastguard station that covers a vast sweep of the Westcountry coast is to be closed under the controversial plans.
Shutting the Brixham watch, which covers the coastline from Dodman Point in Cornwall to Topsham in Devon, means campaigners have failed to force a U-turn over the border.
Today's announcement follows a mass public outcry in the wake of modernisation proposals drawn up by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to shut half the UK's stations.
The Westcountry would have been left without 24-hour coastguard cover, leading to fears over the safety of a range of groups, from tourists to fishermen.
But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will today announce "adapted" plans. He will say seven out of 18 stations in the UK are to close, effectively saving three stations that were originally earmarked for closure.
Brixham is one of those to go, the Western Morning News understands. The 11 stations to remain open, including Falmouth, will all operate 24 hours a day.
Coastguard agency staff and MPs feared lives were being put at risk because of a loss of local knowledge as a result of coastguards being sacked.
The new plans are set to go out for a further six-week consultation, but it will only be on the revisions – dashing remaining hopes Brixham gets an 11th hour reprieve.
Shipping Minister Mike Penning had previously insisted that the original proposals would be changed, but also stressed the status quo was not an option.
Commentators have felt that Brixham was always at greater risk than Falmouth because of Falmouth's expertise in international rescues.
But Brixham supporters claimed this was a misnomer as the Devon station takes over the multi-national operations when Falmouth is down.
But fears for Brixham's future were heightened when Mr Penning described the distance between the two as "ridiculously close" when justifying the need for closures. Campaigners have pointed out there are more road miles between other centres.
Mr Penning also revealed that Falmouth had proposed shutting its "twin" station Brixham in its response to the coastguard consultation.
Under the original proposals, which were commissioned five years ago under the Labour government, three stations would have operated around-the-clock. That would have meant the closest 24-hour station covering the Westcountry would have been in the Portsmouth and Southampton area.
Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, whose constituency is covered by the Brixham station, is among a number of MPs who have called on the Government to go back to the drawing board. Mrs Murray's husband Neil, a fisherman, died at sea in March in waters covered by the Devon station.
She has said the lives of more fishermen would be at risk with Brixham gone.

Article courtesy of the Cornishman.