Air ambulance abandons Paddock Wood HQ plans
The air ambulance has abandoned ambitious plans to set up a new base in its Weald heartland.
At the end of last year, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust announced it wanted to bring its operations under one roof and close existing sites in Marden and Redhill, Surrey, saying running from two locations would eventually push the charity to breaking point.
But its £7.5 million plans to relocate to the Old Hay Airfield off Willow Lane, Paddock Wood, faced a huge backlash from locals, parish councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The move would have seen a new headquarters created, and day and night flights running from Kent. Night flights have been run from Surrey since 2013.
Last week the trust revealed it had now scrapped the plans, which were two years in the making, after an opportunity arose to expand at Redhill Aerodrome.
It said the U-turn had nothing to do with concerns about helicopter noise and the effect on the countryside, but was the most cost-effective way forward.
In February, Redhill Aerodrome offered the charity, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, the use of Hanger 10, a larger building, after the current occupant said it was moving out.
The charity will apply for planning permission to expand its helipad at Pattenden Lane, Marden, which will remain its headquarters and fundraising base.
Its partner, Specialist Aviation Services (SAS), which maintains and repairs the helicopters, will relocate from Gloucestershire to Redhill so there will be an engineer on site and aircraft can be serviced more quickly.
Adrian Bell, chief executive of the trust, said: “Everything the charity does centres on what is best for the patient.
“I’m thrilled these plans have been confirmed and the charity’s long-term resilience and sustainability will be fulfilled by having our aircraft garaged and maintained at Redhill.
“Our helicopters will continue to deploy routinely from both Marden and Redhill and the night service will continue as normal from Redhill.
“The co-location with SAS is a momentous step forward for us. Mechanical support is vital for keeping our aircraft online.”
Much of the £7.5 million needed to construct the helipad, hangar and offices at Paddock Wood had already been secured, from donations and legacies.
In another development, one of the trust’s helicopters will have been replaced by a bigger, faster and more modern AW169 by the autumn.
Kent Air Ambulance will continue to operate from Marden and Redhill