THE safety of residents in a seaside town has been given a major boost after a new coastguard headquarters was officially opened.

The Walton Coastguard station, in Arthur Ransome Way, was declared open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The life-saving volunteer crews have been operating from the site since last May but final additions and alterations were still being made until this week.

Spearheaded by new station officer Paul Tovell, alongside crew members from the rescue team, the informal opening celebrated the vital addition to the area.

Area commander Robert Stephenson and divisional commander Mike Bill also attended, as well as a new recruit who was hired hours prior to the event.

Mr Tovell said: “It was a great turnout and we had a good mix of people there, from senior coastguards and new volunteers to long-serving coastguards.

“We also had Bernie Anderson, who was a coastguard for more than 25 years, cut the ribbon.

“He was the last person to retire while working at the previous station. It was a nice gesture and a great touch.”

The duties of the coastguard include carrying out search and rescue operations along the coastline and working to keep people and vessels safe by marking dangerous areas.

The launch of the new headquarters will help to reinstate the public’s faith in their coastguards after the former station in East Terrace closed in 2015.

The closure of the base came as a result of funding cuts designed to save the Maritime and Coastguard Agency money.

Despite shutting its doors, it continued to be used as a telecommunications base from which to manage and assist volunteers operating along the Essex and Suffolk coastlines.

But the site is no longer used after the coastguards moved a mile away to their new home.

Mr Tovell said: “The team is now up to full strength and the new station’s location will only improve our response times.

“At least five members of the team live within five minutes of the station and we don’t have to get along the seafront anymore.

“We are still a presence in the area and community and we want people to know we are there to provide security them and those who visit.

“Our team is a good mix of young and older people, as well as former fire rescue officers, so we have a good body of people to get out in the community again.”