GOVERNMENT minister Mike Penning has pledged that the creation of a new national hub for coastguards will revitalise the service.
The MP made the promise as the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) took possession of the building at Kite’s Croft in Segensworth which had been built to house a regional fire control centre.
The 30,000sq ft building has never been used – the national fire control scheme was scrapped in 2010 before it could be put into action.
Shipping minister Mr Penning was speaking at a ceremony to mark the MCA’s official takeover of the building, which will now be fitted out as a hi-tech UK-wide operations and training centre.
He said: ‘I couldn’t have afforded to build this building, but a previous administration wanted a regional network of fire centres.
‘This is a state-of-the-art building which we have inherited at a very reasonable price from the previous owners.
‘It’s going to give the resilience and professionalism the service has been crying out for, for years.
‘We are going to have the money and the training to help these professionals do their jobs.
‘There will be better training, better pay and a better service to the public.’
Last month coastguards based at the Solent base in Marine Parade West, Lee-on-the-Solent, which is one of nine stations earmarked for closure as part of the overhaul, staged an hour-long walk-out in protest at the plans.
But Mr Penning added: ‘The unions are doing what they feel is right and proper. But they have said all along that they recognise the coastguard service needs to enter the 21st century.
‘I am disappointed that the unions are still saying this, but I understand why they are.’
Sir Alan Massey, the MCA’s chief executive, added: ‘We are seeking to keep as many of our current coastguards who are in the centres that are closing as possible.
‘They carry local knowledge, knowledge of all our procedures, and where we can entice from centres that are closing, we will.’
The centre is expected to be fully operational by 2014 and will have 96 staff. The MCA’s base at HMS Daedalus will become a training site.