Changes to police air support a step closer

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COST-CUTTING plans to change police air support services could be brought forward, according to Hampshire’s top policeman.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, who is leading proposals for a National Police Air Service, said the project could be rolled out in the south east from October instead of July next year.

Mr Marshall said: ‘It will be phased in from this autumn through to early 2014 when the last force is joining.

‘At the moment 97 per cent of the population of England and Wales are within 20 minutes coverage of air support.

‘Under my proposed model 98 per cent of the population will be within 20 minutes at a 20 per cent annual reduction in costs.’

The move – backed by Hampshire Police Authority – would save the force an extra £165,000 by April 2013.

Hampshire is currently served by helicopters at RAF Odiham near Hook and Shoreham in West Sussex following a merger of air support with Surrey and Sussex in October 2010 to save cash.

Under the National Police Air Service one helicopter would be kept as a spare and the other would move to Redhill in Surrey.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight would also be served by two other aircraft, based in Dorset and Oxfordshire.