Page last updated at 20:08 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Search and rescue air cover in Devon is to be reduced

RMB Chivenor
RMB Chivenor will no longer provide search and rescue cover at night

Round-the-clock helicopter search and rescue cover at RMB Chivenor in Devon is to be scaled down to 12 hours-a-day.

Night cover for the north Devon area is set to be provided by RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, Portland Coastguard in Dorset, and RAF Valley in north Wales.

The change is expected to be implemented in 2012.

It follows a government decision to cut the number of military aircrew involved across the UK in search and rescue and use private consortium Soteria instead.

The group will provide new aircraft to replace the ageing military Sea King helicopters over a three-year period, in a contract worth £6bn over 25 years.

It's a disgrace. Local people need cover
Andy Horne, fisherman

Defence Minister Quentin Davies claims people living in the south west have nothing to fear by the decision to change cover.

"There's a very small number of incidents that arise at night down there," he said.

"The new contractor is going to be able, using much faster helicopters, to maintain the same standards of service, in fact the same minimum standards of service - in most cases it will be better - using helicopters from other stations."

However, concerns are being voiced that the decision to reduce cover at Chivenor could put lives at risk.

Bideford mayor Andy Powell said: "There's a huge surfing population here and it's a big tourist destination so what happens when they clock off at 6pm and somebody goes out at 6.01pm and gets into trouble? Does that mean another life is lost?"

Fisherman Andy Horne, who sails from Bideford, believes the changes are a "disgrace".

"Local people need cover and I think they should keep it," he said.

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Devon 24 Private contractor will run Chivenor search and rescue - 6 hrs ago
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