RNLI launches fresh appeal for new base

PUBLISHED: 07:09 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 09:23 24 May 2010

Mercury chief reporter Clare Hayes on exercise with the RNLI lifeboat crew on the River Axe at Uphill.

Mercury chief reporter Clare Hayes on exercise with the RNLI lifeboat crew on the River Axe at Uphill.

FOR 124 years the brave volunteers who man Weston's lifeboats have put their jobs on hold and their lives on the line for people in need - now they need the town to help them. The charity is desperately searching for a site for a new station and unless so

FOR 124 years the brave volunteers who man Weston's lifeboats have put their jobs on hold and their lives on the line for people in need - now they need the town to help them.The charity is desperately searching for a site for a new station and unless somewhere can be found, the 24-hour emergency cover it provides will be unable to continue.RNLI staff are meeting with North Somerset Council to try to find a suitable location in the Anchor Head area and, once identified, they will need the whole town's support to fund-raise for a new station.The home of their current station, Birnbeck Pier, has declined to such an extent they cannot launch their larger lifeboat, the Atlantic 75, from it for fears the slipway will collapse.Crew members have been forced to moor the boat in the River Axe and set up a temporary hut at Uphill. However, the Birnbeck slipway is still deteriorating and if it collapses the smaller lifeboat, the D-Class, will also have to be moved to Uphill.Because of the tide there are about four hours every day when crew members cannot access the river mooring and consequently cannot provide the full cover they want to.Chief reporter Clare Hayes spent a training session with the lifesaving volunteers who make up the busiest RNLI station in Somerset to see the other problems they face.Previously, when a distress call was received all the lifeboat crew members used to head to Birnbeck Pier and be down the slipway into the water in minutes.But the volunteers now stationed at Uphill face a frustratingly slow journey to get to those who need saving. Having parked in the car park, run to the temporary hut and got changed, they also have to pile into a 4x4, drive down to Uphill beach, jump into a small dinghy tied up to the river edge, chug out to the moored lifeboat, tie up the dinghy and untie the lifeboat before speeding off to the rescue.These precious minutes could cost lives and if the D-Class is forced to move to Uphill as well response times will inevitably plummet.By operating from two sites the lifeboat crew has also had to split its team and equipment in half which has prevented them from not only training together but keeping their gear clean and on show.The volunteers are frustrated with not being able to provide the kind of service they pride themselves on.They want to show off their station to the public and they want to get to people in trouble before it is too late. But to do that they need RNLI chiefs and local authority bosses to work together as fast as they can to find them a new home. Crewman Liam McDermott said: "The lease on the temporary hut in Uphill runs out in March and it's anyone's guess when Birnbeck Pier will give out and render the station useless. Anchor Head is the only place that will provide enough water at all times of the day to launch the boats."It's payback time. We need the support of the whole town to find somewhere new or there will be times of the day when we just cannot help those in distress.

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