PLANS to close Lancashire's only police helicopter base will put lives and communities at risk, according to a union boss.

Lancashire Police Federation chairman Rachel Baines said the proposals to shut the base at Warton in April were short-sighted and would take away an invaluable service.

Warton is one of only four bases serving six forces, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and North Wales.

From April cover for Lancashire will be provided by Cheshire and Greater Manchester, leading to fears over greater response times.

A campaign has been set up to save the Warton base, with over 100,000 people having shared a post by the Facebook group 'Save the Lancashire Police Helicopter Base'.

And Mrs Baines called on the National Police Air Service to retain the Warton base, citing its value in last winter's flood and the invaluable support it gives officers on the ground.

Mrs Baines said: "The closure of Warton will have a devastating effect on the communities of Lancashire, particularly in the north of the county which will receive little or no air support.

"During the Christmas floods the services provided by air support was invaluable. Our genuine fear is that this will put our officers safety in jeopardy as well as the public."

Chief Superintendent Tyron Joyce, Chief Operating Officer for the National Police Air Service said: "The closure of NPAS Warton in April 2017 is part of a national programme of planned activity to ensure that essential air support remains in place to support the police forces of England and Wales at a significantly reduced cost to the public.

"The decision to close NPAS Warton was made based on an impact assessment of the ability of the National Police Air Service to provide air support to police forces in line with areas of the greatest threat, harm and risk to the public.

"While NPAS Warton will remain open until April 2017, it is possible that some of the services they currently provide will be delivered by other local NPAS bases sooner than that in order to most effectively manage the closure process.

"Alongside this closure, more NPAS bases are operating 24 hours. NPAS Barton and NPAS Hawarden along with others across the rest of England and Wales already provide a service 24/7.

"NPAS currently provides this support from 17 bases across England and Wales. Through this network, NPAS are normally able to reach 98 per cent of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes.

"By April 2017, NPAS will be operating from 15 24/7 bases across England and Wales and with this provision, will continue to protect local communities from threat, harm and risk as effectively and in line with local police and crime plans."

Angela Harrison, Director at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, said: "We are aware of the recent social media posts suggesting staff have been informed of a closing date of the base at Warton. However, we have received assurances that NPAS Warton will remain open until April 2017, as previously stated.

"We will be asking NPAS to keep us updated as and when any further decisions over the closure process are taken. Any decision over the future of the NPAS Warton helicopter base is made by the National Strategic Board and not the Lancashire PCC."