‘Resolve this dispute’

A WRANGLE which is holding up the building of a new Coastguard station needs to be resolved as quickly as possible before the opportunity is lost, the local county councillor has urged.

Utility company Northern Powergrid has been at an impasse with land agent George F White, who is acting for the landowner, over an agreed level of compensation for potential disruption caused by the laying of underground electricity cables across fields to the proposed site at Dunstan Hill, near Craster.

A deadline of December 31 was set by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for an agreement to be reached, warning that the cash allocated for the project would not be carried forward into the coming financial year.

However, it delayed pulling the plug as negotiations continued, but so far has not been able to progress the work.

Coun John Taylor, whose Longhoughton ward covers the site, this week branded the situation ‘frustrating’, saying that a large amount of time and taxpayers’ money had already been invested in the scheme.

“It’s extremely disappointing to still be in this position,” he said. “The county council looked very favourably on this scheme, as it is a key component of search and rescue operations along the Northumberland coastline. The volunteer Coastguards give their time freely, yet have to work in appalling conditions from existing sites which are falling apart.

“For it to go through a lengthy planning process and be approved, at some cost, only to be held up like this at the last minute, is extremely frustrating. An agreement is needed, and quickly.”

The new purpose-built station is intended to replace two existing bases at Boulmer and Craster, which have no modern amenities or even hot running water.

They are also said to slow down response times, as crews have to travel between them to fetch equipment for rescues.