Char­ity an­nounces shock plan to move air am­bu­lance HQ

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - ‘marden Base No Longer Viable’ -

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

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