Concerns over shared police helicopter

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NICK Clegg has agreed to step in to the fight to retain a dedicated South Yorkshire Police helicopter.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP told members of South Yorkshire Police Authority he is aware how ‘valuable’ a dedicated helicopter is in tackling crime.

The MP held a meeting with members to discuss the fate of the helicopter - as a report revealed the authority is seeking legal advice on how to challenge Government plans which would see it replaced with shared regional cover.

Deputy PM Mr Clegg urged the authority to ask temporary South Yorkshire Police chief constable Bob Dyson, ‘if compromise is available’ - and also agreed to ‘pursue’ concerns about air cover for South Yorkshire with policing minister, Nick Herbert.

Mr Clegg said: “I realise how valuable the helicopter is in Sheffield. There is an argument about whether a shared arrangement would provide adequate cover.”

Under plans for a National Police Air Service, the current South Yorkshire Police helicopter would be decommissioned, and aircraft serving Wakefield, North Lincolnshire and Derbyshire would cover the county.

South Yorkshire Police Authority said it would opt-out and keep its own service, but last month Mr Herbert said he intended to make an order forcing through the proposal.

Now the authority, which next meets formally on Friday, will be told lawyers have been consulted on the possibility of challenging Mr Herbert.

In a report to the meeting, the authority’s chief executive Bill Wilkinson says: “Legal advice has been sought surrounding the authority’s options to challenge the Minister’s proposal.”

Stocksbridge Town Councillors have also written to the police authority expressing their own concerns due to their remote northerly location.

Mayor of Stocksbridge, Coun Martin Brelsford, said: “If South Yorkshire Police lose their helicopter it will be very worrying for this area because we are so remote.”

Coun Grant French said: “The flying time of helicopters from surrounding areas could make all the difference in life or death situations.”