9:00am Thursday 5th April 2012
By James Tourgout
CAMPAIGNERS in West Dorset are refusing to give up the fight to save the Portland Coastguard helicopter.
Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening has said that the aircraft will be axed in 2017.
But the national campaign group Coastguard SOS has urged people to keep fighting cuts to services – and Bridport campaigners have also been fighting back.
Coun Karl Wallace said that a Labour Party backed petition has so far collected nearly 800 names in West Dorset.
He also intends to speak to the shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle about the issue.
He said: “The petition is going very well. We are still out there collecting signatures. We are not giving up. The battle is still on to save the helicopter because it is essential.”
Coun Wallace also said he hoped to have more discussions about gaining sponsorship from major companies to keep the helicopter operational. Coastguard SOS was set up after the government announced consultations on the future of the service 18 months ago.
Campaigner Dennis O’Connor said he set up the campaign from his home in Pembrokeshire, Wales, with the intention of fighting to save every single coastguard station including Portland, which is due to be axed in 2015, as well as the helicopter in 2017.
Mr O’Connor said: “I’m astonished at the way they have done it.
“It’s a disgrace what they are doing to Weymouth and Portland and the Dorset coastline. They are taking away the co-ordination centre and the helicopter and the eyes of the world will be on you this summer.
“You will struggle to get to work with press, holidaymakers, sailors and tourists. The eyes of the world will be on your area and the government is content to let that happen but as soon as the dust has settled coastguard services will be taken away from you.”
He added: “Don’t let it go. Don’t accept the government’s decision, “The government has to be held accountable when it goes wrong.
“It’s up to us, the people, to make them see they will be making a grave error in judgement if they close these places.”
He added: “Write to the secretary of state and shipping minister Mike Penning and keep on getting the letters in. We are not just fighting for now but for the future.”
Justine Greening and Mike Penning can be written to c/o House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
For details on the campaign visit the website at www.coastguardsos.com or call Coun Wallace on 01308 456454.
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