Could empty Northampton retail park units become Northamptonshire Search and Rescue's permanent base?

Volunteers need somewhere to call home to store its life-saving vehicles and gear

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 5:32 am

One potential idea for an empty unit at St James Retail Park in Northampton would be to give Northamptonshire Search and Rescue (NSAR) a much-needed permanent base.

What to do with the old stores at the Towcester Road shopping park has been a hot topic since Mothercare closed last week and Toys R Us still vacant.

The team of trained volunteers is on call 24hrs a day, 365 days a year, but currently does not have anywhere to call their own.

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The Northamptonshire Search and Rescue foot and dog team

A former store at the retail park could be ideal for the group with room for its three rescue vehicles, training, storage for gear, and perhaps even a shop at the front to support the charity.

Founding member and search manager, Neil Balderson, said: “It would give us a focal point in the community so people can see what this charity is doing, where their base is and where the money is going.

“Very rarely do people see what we do but we were called out 50 times last year for missing people.

“Unlike the air ambulance who do an amazing job but people see the big yellow helicopter flying to incidents but we don’t really have that.”

The Northamptonshire Search and Rescue water team

NSAR has three vehicles which support its life-saving work: an incident control unit in a van, an operational support unit in a 4x4 and a Land Rover converted into an ambulance.

Any base would need space for those three while room for the team to dry their waterproof kit and store the rest of their gear would be preferable.

A climbing wall could be handy to help with training plus room for other drills and maybe even open days for the public to see behind-the-scenes.

Neil said: “We’ve been begging and borrowing from the police and fire service to use their yards as they’re secure but we really need a base like a lot of mountain teams.

Northamptonshire Search and Rescue's 4x4 operational support unit and ambulance

“We need something has 24-hour access but it needs to be secure as a lot of search and rescue teams are having their equipment targeted by thieves which beggars belief.”

Neil believes one of the old stores could be ideal for NSAR, but admitted: “I have no idea how we convince one of the owners of the units to let us use it but its worth putting the word out there.”

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