Air am­bu­lance aban­dons Pad­dock Wood HQ plans

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Helping Others -

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.

Pic­ture: KAA

Kent Air Am­bu­lance will con­tinue to op­er­ate from Mar­den and Red­hill

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