The coastguard stations at Milford Haven and Holyhead have won a reprieve from the UK government, and will not be closed down, as previously planned. Swansea coastguard will shut by 2015 though, the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced this afternoon.
Original plans would have seen both Holyhead and Milford Haven close, but Swansea remain open during daylight hours.
The government has watered down its plans to rationalise the coastguard service, and will now retain 11 coastguard centres around the UK. The Transport Secretary has rejected safety concerns. “The professionals who are consulting on these changes are quite clear that this will enhance the resilience of the system and thus the safety of seafarers,” he said in the House of Commons.
Plans to close ten of the UK’s 18 coastguard stations, including those at Milford Haven and Holyhead, were announced in December. Campaigners argued that the the Welsh stations should be kept open and presented a petition with 20,000 signatures to Downing Street. Both will now continue to operate 24 hours a day.
The coastguard station at Liverpool was going to stay open, and cover the North Wales coast, according to original plans. In his announcement, Mr Hammond said considerations over the Welsh language were important in why Holyhead will now be retained, and Liverpool will be closed.
The turnaround in plans for coastguard stations in Wales has left mixed emotions.
Ray Carson, the PCS Union’s Holyhead branch secretary, said: “From a Holyhead perspective we’re obviously delighted. Members here are over the moon, particularly with the support we’ve had from members of the public in the run up to this consultation. As for Swansea, that’s come as a bit of a shock I must admit.”
Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli, said that closing one coastguard station from each of the pair centres around the UK “is more like a party game than a proper consultation.”
Suzy Davies, Conservative AM for South Wales West, said that she was “stunned” by the plan to close Swansea coastguard station, and “not happy at all.”
Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, said: “Awful news that swansea coastguard station to close. Cut vital services and jobs!”
The Transport Secretary said that compulsory redundancies for coastguard staff will be a last resort.
“Technical advice we received indicated either Swansea or Milford Haven could have the technical and operational remit to cover the area. We came down in favour of Milford Haven based on terms of equity,” Mr Hammond said. Around a third of workers in Swansea are public sector employees, many of them within the Department for Transport.
A 12-week consultation period on these latest proposals will now begin.