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An insult to coastguards

I’VE just read your article about proposed government closures of Coastguard Stations, which featured some naive and frankly alarming comments by MP Greg Knight about HM Coastguard duties.

Mr Knight may wish to refresh his knowledge of the functions undertaken by Coastguard watchkeeping staff in his constituency, given his stated understanding that they are nothing more than “call-takers”.

Mr Knight may be interested to learn that the 28 watchkeeping staff at Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Humber in Bridlington coordinate search and rescue (SAR) activities at the coast and offshore, between the south bank of the Humber and the Scottish border.

This cover is currently maintained 24/7. I have just joined the Bridlington station, following a career as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot.

To take up this new role, I had to prove a minimum of seven years of maritime experience, captaincy and SAR training/conduct.

I am currently undertaking a year of Coastguard training in search planning, SAR coordination and local knowledge, as part of the basic skillset to do my job.

The suggestion that our function as Coastguards can be reduced to the description: ‘call-takers’, is insulting and ignorant.

When a fishing vessel finds itself in difficulties, a cliff-walker takes a tumble, an oil rig has an emergency etc – we are the control centre that deploys resources (helicopters, lifeboats etc) and coordinates the rescue, liaising with other agencies to effect a speedy response.

If we just took telephone calls ... well, I wouldn’t sail out of Bridlington or walk the coast as readily as I do.

The suggestion that Coastguard staff are just “call-takers” is a deliberate mis-representation to allow the government to cut front-line personnel, in spite of their promise not to.

Under current government proposals, the station at Bridlington will work day hours only, and the staffing will reduce to 10.

At night, it is proposed that search and rescue cover for our coast will be provided from Aberdeen or Portsmouth.

If Coastguards did nothing but take telephone calls, then that might work.

But tailoring a rescue response to a particular situation takes years of training, experience and developed local knowledge.

People using our fantastic coastline and venturing to sea (even outside standard nine to five office hours!) want to feel assured that they can call for assistance and get a professional and swift response from local experts.

At the moment, they know that they can rely on a local HM Coastguard station in Bridlington. But, thanks to the disinterest of people like MP Greg Knight, for how much longer?

Phil Saltonstall, via email,

Watch Officer, Humber Coastguard,

Limekiln Lane, Bridlington.

Terrible idea

I BELIEVE these changes to the coastguard service are a terrible idea.

Fortunately there will be no cut backs with the volunteer auxilliary coastguards and there will still be a big reliance on their invaluable local knowledge, plus that of the RNLI volunteers.

However, the full time coastguard station staff must also have to have good local knowledge. They, and not the volunteers, are the ones answering the phone or VHF radio distress calls, and they have to judge which is the best coastguard team/lifeboat to send.

On our coast, a lot of these calls must come from holiday makers or watersports enthusiasts. As the area covered is currently from the Scottish border to the Humber (and presumably will get bigger as stations close) there must be strong regional accents. Local fishermen and residents may also use local place names.

Holiday makers and pleasure craft users may not even know where they are. What will then happen if the call comes through after Bridlington has closed for the day?

I think it will be very difficult for the 24/7 staff in Aberdeen and Southampton, to deal with these, plus similar calls from the rest of the country. I hope it doesn’t take loss of life to make Mr Penning realise that these changes are dangerous.

Elizabeth Chapman, via email,

Lighthouse Road, Flamborough.

Petrol prices

MY LETTER is addressed for a response from the managers of both Tesco and Morrisons in Bridlington.

Brent crude was today (January 11) trading at $95.36 per barrel. This is still some $50 per barrel below the high price of $148 in mid 2008 – yet our petrol prices are above the £1.20 per litre we were being charged then (notwithstanding the recent increase in VAT)!

Perhaps they could explain why the current price on the forecourts in Bridlington is some £1.28 per litre?

When if, as we were lead to believe a price of £1.20 per litre was justifiable in mid 2008 when the crude oil price was $148 per barrel (in round figures a third more than current) – then extrapulating this price, the current price per litre should be no more than £0.80p per litre?

They may also wish to explain why prices in Bridlington are some 3-4p per litre more than their stores in West Yorkshire?

Ian Akeroyd, via email,

Maple Close, Bridlington.

Pothole priority

THE roads in Flamborough have their fair share of potholes as well as the roads leading out towards Bempton, Buckton and Bridlington.

Of these roads I would say the main road leading to Bridlington is the road which takes the highest volume of traffic.

I drive along this road daily and the other day I was going Bridlington and I had to avoid all the now regular pot holes to get there.

As I turned off Jewison Lane on to Church Lane, Sewerby, I saw that every pothole down to Main Street and all through Sewerby village had been repaired to just past the model village. – and to be honest there wasn’t that many, but they had been repaired.

I continued along Sewerby Road towards the railway crossing to see if the council had repaired the road surface either side of the level crossing, which is an accident waiting to happen – and I couldn’t believe the council hadn’t repaired it.

Now had I gone along Martongate into Bridlington I would have been confronted with a 500m stretch of road to the railway bridge with just as many pot holes in it (I must say there had been a very large pot hole on the bridge, but this had been repaired).

I cannot believe that Church Lane and Main Street, with only a small percentage of potholes and a lot less traffic using them, was given priority over the level crossing on Sewerby Road and Martongate/Marton Road.

Could it be that one or two councillors live in Sewerby? Is there someone at the council that can explain the above?

Bob Hitchen, via email,

Southsea Way, Flamborough.

Staff praised

IN THESE days of doom and gloom I would like to give a big thank you to the staff at Bridlington Minor Injuries Unit.

I, like many unfortunate people, slipped on the ice whilst coming back from town one afternoon. Knowing straight away that I had seriously hurt my arm I went to the hospital believing that I would be told to travel to Scarborough.

On arrival the nurse practitioner took one look at my arm and told me that I had broken it. I then expected to be told to go to Scarborough. But no! They put it in a cast for me and asked that I came back the following day for an x-ray.

I did, and the x-ray gave proof of the break. Again it was put in a cast and an appointment made for the fracture clinic the following day.

The service I received was excellent and the humour of the staff kept me going through what was a very “painful arm” experience.

Within 45 minutes of my original fall my arm was in pot and appointments made for the following day.

I am now the proud owner of a shocking pink pot on my arm. When staff in all sectors are in fear of losing their jobs I would like to say the service I received and the professionalism of the staff deserve recognition. Thank you.

Janette Smith, via email,

St James Road, Bridlington.

Flood warning

GRATEFUL thanks to the unknown passer-by who alerted neighbours to a flood in our home on Boxing Day.

This prompt action meant that family and friends were able to gain access and prevent a catastrophe. In appreciation to all who helped.

GA & CE Carter, High Street,

Bridlington.

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