ENd of A loNG ANd tuR­bu­lENt SEARCh?

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

Kent, Sur­rey and Sus­sex Air Am­bu­lance Trust has been eye­ing up a new base for around four years.

For the past 25 years the char­ity has been oper­at­ing out of Mar­den and has a sec­ond site in Red­hill in Sur­rey, but its he­li­copters of­ten use satel­lite air­fields, such as Rochester, in bad weather or to carry out main­te­nance.

In 2015, af­ter scour­ing the re­gion, bosses pinned their hopes on an air­field less than three miles away from Mar­den, in Pad­dock Wood.

The char­ity an­nounced it wanted to bring its op­er­a­tions un­der one roof and close the sites in Pat­ten­den Lane and Red­hill, say­ing run­ning from two lo­ca­tions would even­tu­ally push the char­ity to break­ing point.

But the £7.5 mil­lion plans to re­lo­cate to the Old Hay Air­field off Wil­low Lane, Pad­dock Wood, faced a huge back­lash.

Pad­dock Wood Town Coun­cil did a dra­matic U-turn, vot­ing to ob­ject to the plans af­ter ini­tially rais­ing no ob­jec­tions. It came af­ter hear­ing from dis­grun­tled res­i­dents.

The CPRE said be­cause the airstrip was rarely used, the ap­pli­ca­tion rep­re­sented “a very sub­stan­tial change of use of a green­field site”, the high­est class of farm­land.

The plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion was with­drawn and in June 2016 the trust an­nounced it would be ex­pand­ing Red­hill in­stead, af­ter a hanger be­came avail­able there.

The trust 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.

Bosses said they would ap­ply for plan­ning per­mis­sion to ex­pand the Mar­den he­li­pad, and that its head­quar­ters and fundrais­ing base would re­main in the Weald.

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