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).
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)
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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