Ongoing concerns on SAR changes

The new regime for search and rescue may be a done deal, but concerns continue to be voiced about the cover that will be provided to north Northumberland.

From next April, US-owned firm Bristow will take on the country’s Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter service, which is currently carried out by bases like RAF Boulmer.

Under the new contract, 22 helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK, but the nearest to north Northumberland will be Humberside or Glasgow.

The Gazette has been reporting on concerns in recent weeks and now Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Berwick constituency, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has added her voice to the growing discontent.

“The proposed reconfiguration of the UK’s SAR services around the coast concerns me as it seems that there is a substantial area of the North East’s seas, and indeed our land areas, which will be far from easily reached by the new bases proposed.

“I have seen first-hand the life-saving impact that the arrival of the giant yellow helicopter, as my daughter used to refer to it, can have in our rural heartlands, which are very hard to reach by any other means. Our ambulance service cannot get everywhere, and the wonderful volunteer Great North Air Ambulance has weather and daylight limitations.

“I am concerned that the North East’s land and sea are now in a gap in provision, which may put our residents and visitors at greater risk of harm in emergencies than has previously been the case.

“I hope that our MP is continuing to challenge the proposed new plans to ensure that we are not at any greater risk due to reduced service provision – which in this instance is simply the time it would take to get to a North East emergency situation, onshore or out to sea.”

Bristow Helicopters Ltd has pledged that the ‘strategic choice of base locations, new aircraft and hi-tech equipment will provide unprecedented levels of overlapping SAR helicopter coverage for the whole of the UK’.

Plus they say they are working closely with partner organisations such as Coastguard Rescue Teams, RNLI, police and Mountain Rescue.