No air cover gap promise as eye in sky base set to shut

Police bosses insist there will be no gap in air cover when Lancashire's only helicopter base shuts next month.

Wednesday, 15th March 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:52 am
The helicopter base at Warton is closing

Operations are now being wound down at Warton with flights set to end in early April.Campaigners fighting to retain the base, which had been the home of the Lancashire Police helicopter before duties were passed to the National Police Air Service (NPAS), admitted defeat in January.And now final preparations are being made to transfer the county’s operations to bases in Greater Manchester and Cheshire.NPAS said that it has invested significantly in new aircraft to provide a 24/7 service to all forces.Chief Superintendent Tyron Joyce, Chief Operating Officer for the National Police Air Service insists savings had to be made.He said: “The National Police Air Service (NPAS) is a unique national collaboration across England and Wales providing a truly borderless service. It is tasked with supporting police forces across England and Wales to keep communities safe.“In 2014, along with other areas of policing, NPAS was required to make significant savings. “On this occasion the saving we need to make is 14 per cent of the revenue cost within three years. We will continue to maintain essential air support but at a significantly reduced cost to the public.“Working with the Home Office and other agencies, extensive modelling was used to determine the optimum sites for a reduced number of bases in line with the greatest threat, harm and risk to communities. Both demand and population density were significant determining factors. “A three year plan to close nine bases was implemented in 2014. This included the imminent closures of NPAS bases Warton, Wattisham and Durham Tees Valley in April 2017.“In working toward closure, these bases have been working a reduced number of shifts for some time now and all remaining bases have increased to 24/7 operating hours in order to continue to meet the demand for our service from local police forces.“An additional base is also currently being built at NPAS Doncaster. This base will be able to house a fleet of four fixed-wing aeroplanes, the first of which will be operational in August 2017 and all four will be fully operational by early 2018.“This new fleet will be able to stay in the air for longer and will be faster and able to operate over greater distances and for longer periods than our helicopter fleet. They will also be less vulnerable to adverse weather conditions.“This development will therefore extend the service that we can provide to the 43 police forces across England and Wales and allow us to better respond to the increasingly national changing demands for our service.”Following the changes the service insists that it will still be able to reach 92 per cent of the population within 20 minutes and 97 per cent within 30 minutesChief Superintendent Joyce paid tribute to the staff at Warton for their professionalism.He said: “I would like to thank my staff at NPAS Warton for their consistently high levels of professionalism demonstrated while serving the National Police Air Service and in particular during these changing times. “The base leaves behind a proud heritage in police air support and the staff at the base have made highly significant contributions to keeping the public safe over their many years of service. “As a highly specialised and trained workforce, I am pleased to say that many of these staff will remain a part of the National Police Air Service, working from other bases across our national operation.”

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