Campaigners admit defeat in battle to save Lancashire last police helicopter base

The NPAS base at Warton is closing
The NPAS base at Warton is closing

A last ditch bid to stop the closure of Lancashire’s only police helicopter base has failed.

Campaigners from the online Save the Lancashire Police Helicopter Base group have admitted defeat, announcing on the group’s Facebook page the police helicopter will be leaving Warton on March 20 and will not be returning .

This means that any helicopter cover required by police will have to fly from Manchester or Cheshire.

The campaign group and the Police Federation have been highly critical of the decision to shut Warton as a police helicopter base.

Members are concerned there will be no refuelling facilities available in the north of Lancashire, limiting deployment times and believe fixed wing light aircraft options will not provide a suitable alternative and are not ready to pick up the strain.

A spokesman said: “The closure is now a reality, and we challenge the ‘risk assessment’.

“We also believe from our sources that the fixed wing cover that was to backfill is nowhere near ready and has some major problems with endurance and crew capacity.

“Blackpool and North Lancashire will rarely see a helicopter. There is no refuel facility once Warton closes for night operations north of Manchester.

“A fixed wing aircraft is absolutely no use for police operations.”

The Warton-based helicopter has provided support for a wide variety of operations from missing person searches to car chases and major incidents.

The Gazette revealed last summer the base was to shut and the National Police Air Service (NPAS) has been winding down its Warton base in recent months.

NPAS said at the time that the base would be completely closed by April this year but insisted air support for police would not be adversely affected.

The service said it was confident it will still be able to provide adequate cover to Blackpool and North Lancashire.

The March 20 date has not been confirmed by the service. Nobody from NPAS was available to comment.