Work is now under way to build a new air operations base for the air ambulance and police helicopter on a green belt site near the Almondsbury Interchange.
The new helibase will serve the needs of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) and National Police Air Service (NPAS), whose helicopters are currently based at a site on the former Filton Airfield.
The new site will feature a hangar, a grassed final approach and take-off strip, a car park and a new access road off the A38 (from a point between Almondsbury Sports & Social Club and the Swan Inn).
Planning permission for the new helibase was granted in August 2016, despite fierce opposition by some nearby residents in Almondsbury and north Bradley Stoke, who objected on the grounds of unjustified development of green belt land, potential noise pollution, and the possibility of motorists being distracted by aircraft movements.
BAE Systems purchased the land in Almondsbury for use by GWAAC and NPAS as part of its proposed scheme to redevelop the former Filton Airfield site. The defence company has since sold the Filton site to Malaysia-based conglomerate YTL.
Speaking after a ground breaking ceremony held at the site on 8th November, Russ Woolford, assistant operations director for NPAS, said:
“Today is a significant milestone in the base move from Filton to Almondsbury as construction works begins.”
“The base at Almondsbury will be part of the national, borderless network of 15 NPAS bases from which our crews support local police forces to keep communities safe.”
Anna Perry, GWAAC chief executive said:
“Everyone at GWAAC is pleased that work is beginning. The charity is desperately in need of a modern air base and this great location will mean that even when we cannot fly, our doctors and paramedics can get to patients quickly in our Critical Care Car.”
Both helicopters are expected to relocate operations from Filton to Almondsbury in autumn 2018.
The old hangar at Filton Airfield that is currently used by the two helicopter teams will be handed to Aerospace Bristol, the new museum celebrating Bristol’s aerospace industry, as part of BAE Systems’ sponsorship of the museum.
A condition of the planning permission for the Almondsbury site required the establishment of a “structured forum”, to include representatives of local councils and the site operators, in order to “exchange relevant information, to respond to local comments and to maintain good community relations”. The forum will meet once or twice during the construction period and four times during the first year of active operations. Bradley Stoke Town Council recently nominated Cllr Paul Hardwick to be its representative on the ‘Helicopter Base Liaison Group’.
Photo: Groundbreaking at the new helibase site. [Credit: GWAAC]
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 13). The magazine is 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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