plans to scrap South Yorkshire’s dedicated police helicopter and replace it with aircraft supplied under a national scheme face growing public opposition, according to the county’s police authority.
Members of the authority, which governs the work of South Yorkshire Police, last year voted to remain outside the Government’s proposed National Police Air Service, and retain the force’s dedicated aircraft.
Policing minister Nick Herbert recently said he would force all police authorities, including South Yorkshire, to sign up, but recent public consultation has revealed increasing anger over the issue.
On Saturday, the Yorkshire Post revealed that authority members had taken legal advice on the possibility of challenging Mr Herbert’s announcement, and details will be revealed at a meeting on Friday.
Tonight between 6pm and 8pm, a live “web chat” will also take place between members and the public, which follows a similar exercise earlier this year in which 50 people voiced their concerns.
Charles Perryman, the authority’s chairman said: “The live debate was an overwhelming success. The issue has generated huge interest amongst members of the public and we need to listen to those views.
“The majority of comments were in favour of keeping the helicopter. The public seem as unconvinced with the NPAS proposals as members of the authority are.
“We saw a large amount of praise for the current air support, with the public concerned that NPAS will not only affect response times to South Yorkshire, but that the savings from the change are not significant enough to justify removing the current helicopter.”
The national service will see 23 aircraft operating from 20 bases around the country. The nearest helicopters for South Yorkshire will be located in Derbyshire, Humberside and West Yorkshire. It is estimated that the service could save around £15m a year.