A NEW row has erupted over the threatened Portland Coastguard helicopter with an MP claiming he has been barred from speaking to coastguard staff.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax has written to Transport Secretary Stephen Hammond asking him to confirm whether he has asked officials within the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) not to speak to him.

It follows a meeting Mr Drax tried to set up with MCA chief executive Sir Alan Massey.

Portland will lose its helicopter in 2017 as part of government plans and the area will be covered by aircraft from Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.

Mr Drax writes in his letter: “I find it quite extraordinary that an MP should be prevented from speaking to anyone on behalf of his constituents.

“I would ask you to withdraw this order and allow me to talk to a vital link in the chain, before a disastrous decision is made.”

Mr Drax has also refuted points made in a letter to him from Mr Hammond over helicopter flying times.