A YOUNG business couple who have just moved to Charmouth have taken up the cause of the Portland coastguard helicopter and gained 3,500 signatures in three weeks.

Janice Pritchard, 44, who gives Reiki therapy, and her partner Richard Barnett, 37, who repairs bikes for a living, say the fact that the helicopter was called out to Charmouth beach six times in the first two weeks of the summer holidays speaks for itself.

Government cuts would leave a 165-stretch of coastline dangerously thin of rescue cover, said Ms Pritchard. She said: “Since we have moved down here in July we have seen how much the helicopter has been called out as we live right near the seafront and talking to local people we just realise how much it is needed. I just picked up the petition just to get a few signatures at the Candles on the Cobb event and it has just spiralled from there.”

So involved has Ms Pritchard become she’s joined the Lyme Bay National Coastwatch scheme and attended a Helicopter SOS meeting at Portland Heights yesterday.

The couple is also planning to spend their half term weekend on October 27 and 28 in Lyme and Charmouth collecting more signatures.

Ms Pritchard added: “We don’t want the helicopter to go.

“The next one is at Solent which is 65 miles away which is a 45 minutes minimum flying time.

“Local knowledge saves, minutes which save lives, it is so important. David Cameron has announced the closure of nine of the 16 helicopters around the UK including Brixham which is the next one round and the next one then would be Falmouth in Cornwall which is 165 stretch of coastline which is sparsely covered.”

She added: “We need 100,000 collectively to then go to Parliament to be debated in a Private Members’ Bill.

“Locally we have now got 30,000 signatures on paper and about 10,500 online.

“We need to plug the e-petition more.”

To do that they couple are also pasting up squares with scanner codes on them in the area.

These can be used with iphones to scan straight through to the e-petition, the address of which is http://epetitions. direct.gov.uk/petitions/36619.