Police to keep its helicopter

South Yorkshire Police is to keep its own dedicated helicopter rather than signing up to a new national scheme.

South Yorkshire Police Authority has said it is opting out of the planned National Police Air Service which is due to launch in April 2012.

This scheme would have seen the county served by helicopters based in three neighbouring counties - West Yorkshire, Humberside and Derbyshire - rather than by the force itself.

But instead South Yorkshire has become the first force in England to opt out of the scheme.

Charles Perryman, chairman of South Yorkshire Police Authority, said the decision was only made after a “long debate”.

“The helicopter strengthens the force’s ability to reduce crime, protect vulnerable people and reduce vehicle accidents and the value of this cannot be underestimated,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks, the authority has also received messages of strong support for the existing service to continue and at its meeting received a petition from 186 people in the Sheffield area seeking retention of the helicopter, all of which demonstrates the value members of the public place on the current service.”

“The presentation from the National Police Air Service did not give members reassurance regarding the costs of the proposed national model or the quality of cover for the South Yorkshire area.”

Assistant Chief Constable Max Sahota said: “The conclusion, by a significant majority, was not to support the proposal and for South Yorkshire to pursue it’s own service.”

South Yorkshire Police had earlier said the removal of the force’s helicopter service would save £668,000 per year.