Campaigners hope cabinet re-shuffle falls their way
CAMPAIGNERS hoping to stop the closure of Mumbles Coastguard station hope the recent cabinet reshuffle will be a step towards a re-think of the plans.
The UK government is planning to close half its coastguard rescue coordination centres, including Swansea, as well as centres in Liverpool, Brixham, Clyde, Portland, Thames, Forth and Yarmouth.
But the National Coastguard SOS Campaign Group said the cuts would lead to a loss of local knowledge and consequently pose a real threat to lives.
The parliamentary Transport Select Committee is holding an inquiry examining the effect closures will have on coastal areas, and the Coastgaurd SOS Campaign group has now submitted its final formal response to this, stating that despite two public consultation exercises, the closures remain dangerously flawed.
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Dennis O'Connor, of the SOS group, said: "The planned closure of coastguard rescue coordination centres is not based upon operational reasoning.
"We are very concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to the affect that the loss of stations will have on coastal communities and on the safety of those who use the coast for recreational and commercial purposes."
The Government plans to centralise incident coordination responsibilities and distribute the workload to quieter stations.
But campaigners have insisted it will increase the risks.
Dennis O'Connor added: "The planned centralisation of incident coordination has been rejected by coastguard officers and campaigners because essential local knowledge will be lost. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) are pinning everything on the trials of, as yet, unproven technology to 'capture' local knowledge, but with the first of the stations due to close in a matter of weeks it is highly likely that key knowledge will be lost".
The group also voiced hope that the cabinet reshuffle would lead to a more open dialogue.
Former Transport Secretary Justine Greening MP was replaced by Patrick McLoughlin MP, while shipping minister Mike Penning, who has been a central figure in plans to close coastguard stations was replaced by Stephen Hammond MP.
Dennis O'Connor said: "The recent reshuffle has brought fresh hope that the new ministers will adopt more of an open dialogue approach and will urgently reconsider the closure programme. We have written to both Mr McLoughlin and Mr Hammond requesting a meeting at their earliest convenience in order that we may be able to assess the affect that the change in ministers will have on the closure plans."
Mike Dubens, publicity officer for the Save Swansea Coastguard said: "The government has asked for response and that is encouraging because it means they are willing to look again at concerns. Unfortunately, Carwyn Jones appears to have backtracked on undergoing a risk assessment of the closure, which would have been another string in our bow. But hopefully, the new faces following the reshuffle will mean there is a fresh approach to reconsidering the closures"