Police Federation not surprised at planned closure of helicopter base in Sheffield

A police helicopter in action in South Yorkshire
A police helicopter in action in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire bobbies claim they are not surprised at plans to close the police helicopter base in Sheffield.

The National Police Air Service is to close the base next February to cut costs.

Since April 2013 South Yorkshire has been served by a helicopter - SY99 - based at Sheffield 10 hours a day and for the remaining 14 hours a day aircraft from neighbouring NPAS bases in West Yorkshire, Humberside and Derbyshire have been used.

Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “The news from NPAS is no surprise to us in South Yorkshire - they had always planned to get rid of our base and helicopter.

“The service we have received from NPAS so far is poor, cops do not even bother calling for it these days as they know it’s unlikely to even arrive in time if it does attend.

“SY99 was an expensive tool, nobody could say it was not, but it was a vital tool to contain an area for offenders, safely manage a vehicle pursuit from the air and search for vulnerable missing persons. “Sheffield, the fourth largest city in England, doesn’t have its own airport, now it has not even got a police helicopter. It’s another consequence of the cuts.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and chairman of the NPAS Strategic Board, said: “The Board have been assured that the performance of NPAS will be maintained in line with the needs of the forces and PCCs we serve as we move to a truly borderless tasking of the national air service, the Board will be robustly monitoring this transition and performance to ensure an effective and efficient service is delivered through this unique national collaboration.”

The Accountable Manager for the National Police Air Service, Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, said: “Local police forces facing similar savings are looking at how they rationalise their estate and ways of operating and NPAS is no different in this regard.”

Temporary Chief Superintendent Adrian Moran, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “The plan to close the Sheffield base in February 2016 gives us 12 months to work closely with NPAS to ensure that they maintain an effective air service for South Yorkshire.”