Great Yarmouth coastguard HQ could close as part of cutbacks

More than half of the UK's coastguard control centres, including one at Great Yarmouth, could close as part of government cutbacks.

Ministers are expected to give more details of how spending cuts will hit services including police, roads, and the coastguard this week.

The Department for Transport is to propose slashing the number of coastguard stations from 19 to eight, of which only three will operate round the clock, according to reports. The service could lose 250 jobs as part of efforts to save �7.5m a year.

One of the control centres that could close is Great Yarmouth, which is responsible for providing search and rescue coverage from Haile Sand Fort in Lincolnshire to Southwold in Suffolk.

About 36 people are employed at the base at Havenbridge House on North Quay including surveyors and operational staff.

Last night Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he would be studying the detail of the proposals before taking action.

He said: 'If there are proposals that do affect this area then I will immediately liaise with port users and shipping companies to get their reaction on it.

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'Depending on their reaction, if there is major concern, I will make strong representations to the government.

'We do have a very long coast here in East Anglia. We need to make sure it does have proper and adequate cover.

'There is going to be an awful lot of activity in the North Sea in the coming years with increased shipping hopefully into Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Wind farms are going to generate more activity and we have got the fishing industry.

'A lot of the future of this area does depend on the sea – that has always been the case – and is very much the case for the future. That means we have got to have proper safety and safety procedures.'

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents coastguard staff, also voiced its concern.

A spokesman said: 'It is fair to say we would have concerns if any cuts were made that there would be a reduction in the coastguard cover because obviously it is an emergency service, so to make sure cuts are not made that would put lives at risk are absolutely crucial.'

The RNLI, which works closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which includes HM Coastguard, said it is monitoring the situation closely.

'Clearly in the current economic climate, very hard decisions are having to be taken across the board,' a spokesman said.

'Any reduction in maritime rescue coordination centres would be significant but we have yet to see the detail.

'Once decisions have been taken and we have been informed of the extent of any changes affecting UK SAR (search and rescue), we will be in a position to assess their potential impact on the operational effectiveness of our charity's lifeboats, which our volunteer crews will continue to launch whenever they are needed, and, also on the operation of our lifeguard units.'