LIFE-saving volunteers have blamed an estate agent for holding up the building of a vital new Coastguard station, as a wrangle over compensation payments drags on.
Time is running out for an agreement to be reached over the laying of underground cables across fields to the site at Dunstan Hill, near Craster, and how much compensation should be paid to farmers affected by any disruption it causes.
Land there was provided by Lord Howick and plans approved for the new station, which will replace the Victorian facilities currently used by the Howick team based at Boulmer and Craster, while the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it would fund the scheme.
However, it warned that the finances could not be carried over into the next financial year and set a deadline of December 31, but so far the parties involved – Northern Powergrid and land agent George F White – have still failed to reach a compromise.
And volunteers have now spoken out at their frustration over the delay, aiming a broadside at Mr White and accusing him of jeopardising the whole project.
Howick Coastguard team deputy station officer Paul Sparrow said: “It is frustrating and disappointing that the whole community could miss out on a new, fit-for-purpose station because one man is standing in the way.
“We’re not being dramatic when we say it could mean the difference between life and death in a rescue situation.
“Everyone we have spoken to is on our side, except George F White.
“Northern Powergrid has made a revised offer, but he’s digging his heels in and saying he wants more. As it stands, at the end of the financial year – which is less than two months away – we’re going to be left without the prospect of an adequate building because one person won’t compromise.”
He added: “In the last year, we have been involved in 30 shouts, one of which was a woman who died after a cliff-fall at Seahouses.
“We need to get to an incident as quickly as possible, but the current set-up slows us down. That could be solved if we get this new station.”
But Mr White said: “I find it hugely disappointing that Mr Sparrow feels the need to express himself to the press rather than justify his comments to me personally. He should be reminded that as a professional land agent and valuer, my duty of care is to my client and not to the proposed Coastguard station or any other third party.
“My clients’ primary and only concern is to the business which they run and the rules of compensation are quite clear in that the acquiring authority, in this case Northern Powergrid, must put my clients back into a position they would have been in had the proposed scheme not taken place.
“There is no reason why my clients should subsidise this or any other public service.”