Councillors alarmed over potential closure of terrorism prevention centre in Aylesbury which also serves Milton Keynes

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The centre serves all of Bucks including MK

Councillors have voiced their concern over the potential closure of an anti-terrorism centre in Aylesbury which serves all of Bucks, including Milton Keynes.

The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Centre which operates out of Aylesbury fire station was launched in response to 9/11.

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Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service officials were informed verbally that the centre might close as a result of funding cuts.

Councillor Emily DarlingtonCouncillor Emily Darlington
Councillor Emily Darlington

It is one of just 20 bases across the country and serves the entire council area and Milton Keynes.

Equipment from the centre is used by emergency responders in the immediate aftermath of disasters or terrorism incidents.

USAR is a project which was launched by the Government in response to the World Trade Center terrorism attacks on 11 September, 2001.

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Milton Keynes-based Councillor Emily Darlington said at a fire authority meeting: “USAR is a specialist service that really benefits our residents, but also residents across the country.

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"Now, I know we have raised this at executive level and we are going to try and think about how we can save the service, or a bit of the service. But the reality is I don’t think we’re making enough of a fuss with Government around it.”

Buckingham-based Councillor Robin Stuchbury also raised concerns at the meeting, with emergency services ability to cope with a potential major incident if its resources are reduced being particularly worrying to the councillors.

The grant which the Buckinghamshire fire authority currently uses to fund the disaster response site runs out at the end of March, in January staff were warned informally that the service may no longer be available.

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Councillor Simon Rouse was keen to point out that nothing was official at this stage and that high profile Bucks politicians have shown recent for the project.

He referenced recent visits to the site by Bucks Council Leader Martin Tett and Aylesbury MP Rob Butler, while also highlighting that Milton Keynes Council Leader Peter Marland supports USAR.

Councillor Rouse added: “I think it’s the outcome that is important in these things and the outcome is getting us to a place where we are able to keep USAR.

"It’s worth putting on record that we haven’t received formal notification that the USAR grant is being removed.

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"What we need to try and do is convey to the Home Office that this is the wrong decision.

"Because, our USAR team is not only one of the best performing, it is by some distance one of the most efficient.

"There are things about our operating model that we think should be replicated across the country.

"The authority has my absolute assurance that I am very committed to doing all that we can to protect it, and I have been making sure that other Bucks MPs are also aware of that.”

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Among the resources currently held at the USAR centre is four lorries, two personnel carriers and five modules containing specialist equipment.

Each module contains slightly different items which can be used depending on which kind of emergency incident USAR staff need to race to.