New coastguard centre for Lee in service revamp

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A new national coastguard centre looks set to be built in Lee-on-the-Solent after the service in the area was saved from the axe.

The centre will be one of just three across the UK, along with Dover and Aberdeen, that will be operational 24 hours a day.

But the proposals mean the overall number of centres nationwide is cut from 18 to eight.

There will also be five sub-centres open during daylight hours - at Swansea, Falmouth, Humber and at either Belfast or Liverpool, and at either Stornoway or the Shetland Islands.

Shipping minister Mike Penning said: 'I am setting out proposals to establish two nationally networked Maritime Operations Centres (MOC), located at Aberdeen and the Southampton/Portsmouth area, capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur and with improved information systems.'

A 14 week consultation on the proposals is now underway.

The consultation document reveals that there is no existing coastguard facility on the south coast suitable to be converted to an MOC.

But it does identify Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent - on land already owned by the Maritime Coastguard Association, and the site of the current centre - as the most likely location for this new facility.

And Gosport Tory MP Caroline Dinenage said: 'I invited Mike Penning to the site in May and he was very impressed. He called me before the report was released and told me it will be saved, and will be one of the new national centres. It's great to hear, as it will mean more jobs for the area.'

However, the report adds other government buildings in the area will be looked at as 'suitable alternatives.'

Regarding the new centre, Stuart Atkinson, section officer for the PCS Union, said: 'It doesn't matter really where it is in the area.

'What we have to come back to is that the centre is fit for purpose and no individuals are put at risk.'

He added that nationally the proposals would lead to about 48 per cent of all coastguard officers losing their jobs over the next four years.

Mr Penning said: 'In common with all public services, the coastguard cannot stand still.

'The lack of national co-ordination between centres can result in limited resilience and an uneven distribution of the workload.'

Staff at the existing centre in Daedalus have been told not to comment.

The full consultation document is online at mcga.gov.uk