Councillors demand noise barrier if new helicopter base approved

Helicopter of the the Western Counties Air Operations Unit.

Bradley Stoke town councillors have demanded the provision of noise attenuation barriers for Woodlands Park and Ormonds Close should plans for a new helicopter base near the Almondsbury Interchange be approved by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).

The new base would serve the needs of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) and National Police Air Service (NPAS), whose helicopters are currently based at Filton Airfield.

BAe Systems, which owns the airfield and is intending to redevelop it with 2,675 residential dwellings and up to 24ha of commercial use, says it is necessary to relocate the helicopter base because leaving it at the airfield would lead to “the loss of approximately 400 residential dwellings and a significant proportion of affordable housing [within the new development]”.

The decision came after Cooks Close resident Caroline Sullivan asked for the planning application to be considered by the town council’s Planning Committee on the grounds that residents in north Bradley Stoke had not been properly consulted by the applicants, Alder King (acting on behalf of BAe Systems).

Ms Sullivan described the proposed site as “totally unsuitable” due to its location within the green belt and said that residents in Woodlands Park in particular would be affected by the noise of helicopters taking off and landing, due to the poor soundproofing of their [‘park home’ style] properties.

The committee stopped short of raising a formal objection, on the grounds that the town council is not a statutory consultee as the site lies in another parish.

Scores of residents in Almondsbury have lodged objections to the application and an e-petition titled ‘Protect Almondsbury Greenbelt from BAE’ has so far attracted more than 160 signatures. Points raised by the objectors include: unjustified development of green belt land, potential noise pollution, and the possibility of motorists being distracted by aircraft movements.

Local MP Jack Lopresti has also opposed the move, saying that he expects BAe Systems to honour a written guarantee, given at the time the airfield’s closure was announced in 2011, that a new home would be found for the air ambulance on the airfield site.

John Christensen, Chief Executive of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity, commented:

“Some people seem to think we’ve chosen the Almondsbury site out of convenience, but if there was another site available that was more appropriate then of course we would have gone for it – the truth is that this is the only site available that meets our needs.”

“Even here we have to make some changes, such as putting the overhead power lines next to the A38 underground, in order to remove this potential obstruction to our flight path. The helicopter operators for both the air ambulance and the police have been involved every step of the way in choosing the site and fully agree this is the right one.”

“It’s worth pointing out that the site will remain 90% grass and the helicopter hangar would not be visible from homes in Almondsbury. With this and burying the power lines, we will actually be guaranteeing that this area of the green belt remains green and free from further development.”

“The fact is that helicopters would only fly a handful of times a day and then only in an emergency.”

“We couldn’t continue to operate from the former airfield, either during construction or once it is fully developed. And going further away from Bristol means longer response times, in a scenario where every minute can make the difference between life and death.”

No date has yet been set for SGC’s Development Control (West) Committee to discuss the application, although it is understood that it is unlikely to be before July.

Related link: New helicopter base near the M4/M5 Almondsbury Interchange (The Journal)

Proposed new helicopter base for the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and National Police Air Service in Almondsbury, Bristol.

Image: Site of the proposed new helicopter base.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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  1. i live at the North end of Bradley Stoke, this doesn’t bother me at all, in fact knowing that both are so close should I or any of my family need them is very reassuring. The noise from the motorway and all the drivers who use Bradley Stoke as a rat run are much more polluting, noisy and inconvenient than this will be.

  2. I think it is important to ask whether the decision made by GWAAC and the police to support this choice and disregard local opinion and national planning policy is being influenced by the fact the relocation is being funded by BAE. Obviously GWAAC run on donations anyway, but the police do not. I hope they are not allowing a large multi national commercial organisation to affect their decision.

  3. This is the best place for it so what you have will get a bit of noise from the Helicopter we have had it for years where we live doesn’t worry us because we know it saves lives

  4. Why is this the best place for it – it’s a helicopter, it doesn’t use roads so why do you need to place it close to a major road? You could place it in the country side miles away and it would still take next to no difference to travel time to any accident. It drops off injured people directly at the hospital. The only person who would find it easier is the helicopter pilot who would get a shorter commute.

    The only reason it’s being placed next to a road is to combine it with a fast car service that runs at night when the helicopters can’t fly. There is no requirement to co-locate those two services, it’s just a bit easier.

  5. So if they stopped flying because of lack of support and somewhere to ‘park’, and you required emergency airlifting or police assistance would you all mind so much.

  6. “noise attention barriers”?

    We had Concorde taking off and landing in Patchway with not even a bail of hay to absorb the noise.

    What’s happened to people’s backbone these days?

    It might be a teensy bit of noise a couple of times a week; count your blessings that you’re not in a wheelchair.

  7. So this situation was created by the developer of the airfield site manipulating their plans so that retention of the helicopter base was at the detriment of affordable housing instead of regular housing / commercial? That’s utterly ridiculous.

    If you look at past developments, it would seem that it’s more than likely the developer will renege on the affordable housing commitment in any case once development starts. They usually find one reason or another to wriggle out of it.

  8. @K they identified something like 36 possible sites. Not all of them are on greenbelt land by peoples houses. This one was picked due to it’s proximity to the motorway.

    @CavendishMuppet it’s meant to be an average of 23 takeoff/landings a day. How often did Concorde take off?

  9. @CavendishMuppet, Thank you for pointing out the typo – “noise attention barrier” should have been “noise attenuation barrier” (now corrected).

  10. @Simon I have no idea; but when it did from Filton it was invariably to take z-list celebrities on jollies down to the Bay Of Biscay and back.

    At least GWAAC are on genuine emergency missions…..I’ll reserve judgement on the activities of NPAS, I sometimes think their excursions over this area are the airborne equivalent of boy racers.

  11. @CavendishMuppet – That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me! But sherioushly – I did the Concorde Biscay Trip after winning it when appearing on Celebrity Squares in 1993 (as a z-list contestant admittedly) if you are really unlucky you can catch its occasional repeats on Challenge TV 🙂

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