April 24 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, July 26, 2012
VOLUNTEERS have said they will feel under extra pressure to keep a look out on Great Yarmouth’s busy seafront when the town’s coastguard station is closed down.
Members of North Denes Coastwatch spoke out about their concerns over the controversial scrapping of the coastguard base but have conceded they will have to take the changes in their stride.
A campaign to keep the Havenbridge House-based service open, which included a petition signed by 9,000 people, could not stop the government’s decision to axe the base, which must close by June next year.
Coastwatch members this week spoke of their concern about the extra strain they could be put under after they were visited by their new patron, Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis.
Jan Goddard, Coastwatch deputy controller, said having Mr Lewis as a local champion would help boost the group’s profile, which was especially timely and important as the coastguard was going.
“Having a high profile name in Brandon Lewis does help us in our fundraising and it gives us that little bit extra oomph,” Mrs Goddard added. “It (the coastguard closure) will certainly put more pressure on us in terms of the smaller craft that use the inshore waters.” Mrs Goddard explained larger vessels came under an automatic identification system, so their location could be traced, but tracking smaller pleasure boats and fishing craft relied “purely on eyes and ears”, which is what Coastwatch volunteers provide.
She said: “We feel that what we’re doing is going to become more important. We can’t influence what is going to be happening with the coastguard, we’ll take it in our stride and we will be there every single day and continue to do what we do to the best of our abilities.”
On Wednesday Mr Lewis visited members of the Coastwatch team in their tower at the far end of North Drive and assured them he would work to keep them in the community.
Mrs Goddard added: “He can’t prevent what is going to happen (to the coastguard) because that’s a government decision. But speaking to him, he is absolutely determined that we’re going to carry on doing the job we do.”
Coastwatch volunteers man the station every day of the year and keep watch over the inshore waters and beaches stretching from the Britannia Pier to Scroby Sands wind farm at Caister. They pay particular attention to smaller vessels and also provide advice to beach goers.
Yarmouth coastguard is among eight bases across the UK that have been earmarked for closure in a government shake up that will see its calls dealt with by stations on the Humberside and Essex coast.
Government sources say sophisticated technology will ensure staff can deal with calls away from the locality.
● Coastwatch members are always on the look out for more people to join their ranks. Anyone interested in volunteering must be able to climb a near-vertical ladder and be aged between 25 - 80. Call 01493 322192 for details.