Bosses’ fears over air base

Photo Ian Robinson'The Lancashire Constabulary helicopter
Photo Ian Robinson'The Lancashire Constabulary helicopter
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Fears the closure of the police helicopter base on the Fylde coast would put residents’ safety at risk have prompted senior figures to write to bosses to voice their concern.

Lancashire’s chief constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner say they want “assurances” over plans to close 10 National Police Air Service (NPAS) bases, including Warton.

Clive Grunshaw police and crime commissioner

Clive Grunshaw police and crime commissioner

They said they have “concerns” over the impact of the decision and will be taking part in a consultation with the NPAS.

It follows lobbying from campaigners who say the move, announced last week, will put lives at risk on the Fylde coast.

They argue police officers in the area will no longer be able to rely on air support for a rapid response in an emergency if the plans go ahead.

Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “The Chief Constable (Steve Finnigan) and I met to discuss the NPAS proposals this week and we will be responding to the consultation.

Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw

Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw

“It is fair to say we have concerns about the proposal to withdraw Warton, and we will be seeking assurances that we will receive the right level of service we need from NPAS to keep Lancashire residents safe from risk, threat and harm.”

Official maps claim to show the Fylde coast is within 20 minutes’ flying time of the nearest surviving base, at Barton, in Salford – but critics say they are misleading.

Campaigners say a map drawn up by people within the service shows the whole Fylde coast is more than 25 minutes from Barton, including the time from a call for help.

A Twitter campaign has now been launched to oppose the decision to close the base at Warton. It argues the extra response time will mean the helicopter cannot respond in time to help rescue casualties from the sea.

The Lancashire Police Federation has said it was “disppointed” by the decision, which came as a “surprise” .

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques said: “We recognise that difficult decisions have to be made in light of funding cuts across the Police Service, but we remain in discussion to ensure that the service we receive from NPAS is sufficient to keep the communities of Lancashire safe from harm.”