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MP slams plans to cut search and rescue helicopter cover for South Lakes

February 11, 2010 10:17 AM

Tim Farron with Andy Dell of Kendal Mountain RescueSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has slammed plans by the government, confirmed this week, to reduce the cover provided by RAF Search and Rescue in the Lake District.

Defence Minister Quentin Davies confirmed on Tuesday that the service provided from RAF Boulmer would be cut from a 24/7 operation to day-time cover only. In a written statement, Mr Davies announced the preferred bidder for a new generation of faster helicopters, to be provided through a PFI scheme, which will be brought in alongside the cut in night cover.

During the recent Cumbrian floods there were three helicopters working simultaneously at night to rescue people trapped by the flood waters, including one full time helicopter from RAF Boulmer which rescued at least 50 people.

The government believes the Lake District could be covered by a search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick in central Scotland at night. But during the recent floods in Cumbria no helicopters were available from Prestwick as they were tied up in rescues from swollen rivers in the Scottish Borders. It is unclear what ability the service would have had to join the rescue effort in Cumbria had RAF Boulmer been operating under the new regime last autumn.

Speaking today, Mr Farron said: "While we welcome the new faster helicopters, the reduction in hours at RAF Boulmer will undoubtedly put lives at risk in Cumbria. Essential helicopters used to assist our mountain rescue teams simply will not be able to respond reliably overnight.

"During the recent floods I saw how important the crews flying out of RAF Boulmer are to our county. They helped many people and I am in no doubt that they saved lives. I believe it is imperative that the government ensures that the Lake District has 24/7 cover air rescue cover."