CAMPAIGNERS are hoping for a reprieve for the threatened Portland Coastguard helicopter after raising a 100,000-strong petition calling for it to stay.

The petition, which will be delivered to Number 10 next Tuesday, calls on ministers to think again about the aircraft.

The Coastguard helicopter base is due to close in 2017 as part of government cost-cutting plans.

Emergencies in Dorset will be attended by helicopters from Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire or RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.

The Department for Transport has said modern helicopters operating from fewer bases will provide a better service.

But opponents argue it is just a money-saving exercise and claim that lives will be lost.

Government e-petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures can trigger a debate in the House of Commons.

Sandra West, one of the campaigners, said everyone had worked very hard to get the signatures and she hoped it would make the government rethink.

She said it was ‘sheer madness’ to remove the helicopter.

She added: “We will fight it to the bitter end.”

Mrs West added: “Surely the government must look at this again and have a rethink about what’s going to happen.”

Campaigner Roger Macpherson said it was a remarkable achievement to get 100,000 signatures from a small area.

He said: “To get 100,000 signatures in this area is amazing.”

He said: “All the hard work’s paid off. We got our target.”

Without the helicopter the campaigners believe there will be more fatalities, Mr Macpherson added.

He said: “If it was taken away it can never come back.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax paid tribute to the hard work of the helicopter campaigners.

He said: “I would like to reiterate my thanks to all the campaigners, who have gone to considerable trouble and time to collect over 100,000 signatures.

He added: “I hope at this last minute that the sheer volume of signatures will ring a bell in government circles.”