A DECISION to axe the main lifeboat from the world’s second biggest harbour “will cost lives,” critics say.

From next week, Poole - home to one of the busiest RNLI stations in the UK - will no longer have an all-weather boat for major rescues after the charity decided to remove it from its fleet.

The Echo also understands the RNLI’s ongoing project to build a new state-of-the-art lifeboat station at Swanage, eight miles away, has spiralled over budget.

Claims have been made that costs for the Swanage station, which is being built to accommodate the new water-jet propelled Shannon class lifeboat, have reached as high as £8.5m. Before the start of the project the RNLI said the station, at the site of the former Swanage lifeboat base, would cost £3.5m

In Poole the 47ft Tyne-class vessel is being replaced by a three-man fast response dinghy which will cover the 14 square miles of harbour, along with the existing 28ft inshore lifeboat.

The Swanage-based £1.5m Shannon class vessel will deal with any major incidents the two smaller craft cannot attend at Poole.

The charity has also been accused of showing a lack of compassion towards the long-serving volunteer crew of the Poole all-weather boat, including Jonathan Clark, whose 18-year voluntary role as coxswain has been axed.

The only full-time job at the station has also scrapped, meaning the venue is now closed to the public as a result.

Carol Evans, a former mayor of Poole and long-time supporter of the RNLI, described the decision as “dreadful”.

“The lifeboat will be such a great loss to Poole,” she said.

“The RNLI has become far too corporate.

“They are thinking corporately in their big new fancy offices that people’s pennies and grannies’ wills have paid for, rather than as a charity set up to save lives at sea.

“It is the wrong decision and it will cost lives.”

She added: “The volunteers and their families work so hard to keep the lifeboat in pristine condition and to have that hard work thrown in their faces now is dreadful.

“The coxswain, Mr Clark, is dedicated to the role. It is his life. I think he will be bereft.

“I will not donate to the RNLI again.”

Mr Clark, who has spent 33 years as a lifeboatman, said: “I am very proud to have been the coxswain and I will miss going out on the lifeboat, but that feeling of pride and honour of all that we have done will always remain with me.

“You can’t take that away.”


THE RNLI has robustly defended its decision on Poole’s lifeboat station.

A spokesman for the maritime safety organisation said: “Firstly, the RNLI has and always will pay tribute to the selfless commitment of the team at Poole RNLI and thanks them for their continued support, dedication and commitment to saving lives at sea. The decision to change the line-up of lifeboats at Poole lifeboat station follows a regular five-yearly coast review, during which the coast review delegation considered factors such as the changing demand for search and rescue and the improving capabilities of modern lifeboats. The review team concluded that having a Shannon class all-weather lifeboat at Swanage will ensure the RNLI’s strategic performance standards can be met without the need to station an all-weather lifeboat inside Poole harbour.

“The team also concluded that, with Poole Harbour’s history of high incident numbers and large areas of shallow water, a D class inshore lifeboat would be allocated to Poole lifeboat station to work alongside the existing Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Sgt Bob Martin.

“To address the former Mayor’s point, the D class lifeboat has a maximum speed of 25 knots and can be launched quicker than the Tyne which has a maximum speed of 18 knots therefore the stretch of coast around Poole Bay will continue to be very well served by RNLI lifeboats. To provide you with some context, in 2015, Jan – Oct, there were 99 emergency launches from the station, 74 by the inshore lifeboat and 25 with the all-weather lifeboat. 135 people were rescued, 30 by the all-weather lifeboat and 105 by the inshore lifeboat crews. The vast majority of services in Poole harbour could have been successfully dealt with by inshore lifeboats.”