Charity announces shock plan to move air ambulance HQ
It’s been saving lives from its base in Marden for more than a quarter of a century – but now the air ambulance looks set to move out of the Weald.
In a shock move, charity bosses say it is no longer a viable site and have applied for permission to build a new base at Rochester Airport, 15 miles away.
If approved, it would mean relocating more than 30 staff from the trust’s management, administration and fundraising teams to a new office block there.
The trust said keeping that team in Kent, the “heart of the organisation”, was essential.
It had previously said it was looking to expand the Pattenden Lane base, after proposals to move operations to Paddock Wood fell through.
But now Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust wants to relocate to Medway ahead of the arrival of two new helicopters.
The large size of the aircraft and need for them to be available for night flights, which is not possible from Marden, mean the existing base will be unsuitable once they come into operation in the next two years.
The helicopters would be based at its second site in Redhill, but would use Rochester as a forwarding base to allow them to cover the whole of the South East and help patients faster.
The charity relies almost entirely on public donations for the roughly £8 million per year it costs – a figure not lost on villagers in Marden and the wider Weald area, who have organised countless fundraisers over the years.
In 2015, when the trust outlined unsuccessful plans to move its operations to Paddock Wood, chief executive Adrian Bell,said the charity’s heart lay in the Weald, and hoped it could stay there. Speaking at the time, he said: “This [Paddock Wood] is the best place for us.”
But now a planning statement, on behalf of the trust, says: “The site at Marden has been full to capacity for a number of years.
“It lacks the airside infrastructure and expansion opportunity to be a viable solution as a forward helicopter operating base for larger aircraft for the longer term.
“This applies equally to the office facilities required to meet the needs of a growing charity.”
To view the application visit tinyurl.com/KMairambulance
Larger helicopters mean the Marden base is no longer viable