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Emergency radio lifeline is too costly to run say councillors

By Sussex Courier  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

  • Cllr Bob Wood with one of the outdated emergency radios the the council uses.

  • redundant: Cllr Bob Wood with one of the old emergency radios

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AN EMERGENCY radio system that has provided a lifeline to Heathfield for 25 years is to be scrapped.

But users of the service have criticised the decision to rely on patchy mobile phone reception in an emergency.

Radios were first handed out after the Great Storm in 1987. Six parishes across Wealden, including Heathfield and Waldron, still have them in order to cope in an emergency, but the district council now wants to abolish them because they are too expensive to maintain.

Lin Plant, the vice-chairman of Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council, said: "I think when people start using mobiles in the event of a major problem, signals will go down. At least radio waves are available when mobile signals aren't."

Mrs Plant remembered her daughter, who went into labour on the day of the July bombings, could not get through to her when she was in London.

She said: "She couldn't get through as so many people were on their mobiles. I know in Heathfield it wouldn't be on the scale of 7/7, but a plane or car could crash, so I find it worrying."

Bob Wood, a fellow parish councillor who has one of the old radios, said: "They are very inadequate for what we want and they are old, but doing away with them is silly. Mobile phone networks can only hold a certain number of calls at a time if an emergency happened."

Jim van den Bos, of Wealden District Council, said: "The Wealden emergency radio network is still in operation, but the radio equipment is now old, less reliable and more difficult to repair. Last year, we carried out a survey of parishes which had been active in the network over the past three years. Out of the 15 who took part, only seven were in favour of continuing."

The council pays £3,600 a year to maintain a booster station at the Cross in Hand mast.

Mr van den Bos added: "We support local members of RAYNET, [a network of amateur radio users] who are willing to respond in an emergency."

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