Permanent home for Wiltshire Air Ambulance could be two years off
8:37am Monday 7th April 2014 in By Jill Crooks, Devizes area senior reporter
A permanent base for Wiltshire Air Ambulance is unlikely to be ready for two years.
The Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAACT) is searching for a new base as it will have its own helicopter from this December due to its long standing partnership with Wiltshire Police ending as the force is joining a national police air service based at Filton, near Bristol.
David Philpott, chief executive WAACT, said the charity was in discussions with Wiltshire Police about whether it can base the new helicopter at the existing hanger for the police helicopter and joint air ambulance at police headquarters in London Road, Devizes, but is also searching for temporary accommodation elsewhere should this not be possible.
Mr Philpott said he anticipated the new Wiltshire Air Ambulance would be in a temporary hangar for up to two and a half years until a permanent base can be built. He said it would take this length of time to secure planning permission and undertake construction.
He said: “Our expectation is that the air ambulance will stay either at police headquarters in Devizes or a temporary hangar until our new purpose built facility is ready - probably the late summer or early autumn of 2016.
"We have had a constructive discussion with Wiltshire Police and I remain hopeful that we may be able to stay on a temporary basis. We expect a final decision before the end of this month. We are also in advanced discussions with up to half a dozen land owners who are interested to offer us a temporary hangar.”
WAACT has a project team who have identified up to a dozen commercial, military or private airfields or landing strips within seven nautical miles of Devizes where a permanent base could be located. The new air ambulance base would have a hangar, offices, maintenance areas and a visitor centre.
Mr Philpott said WAACT were “very optimistic” about one such location and were in early negotiations with the land owner.
Meanwhile the trustees of WAACT have chosen the colour scheme for the new helicopter but the details are being kept under wraps at the moment as they have to talk to Bell, the manufacturers of the helicopter, to check if they can produce the preferred livery and that the colours will be visible in the sky.
WAACT will know in a few weeks if the new colours have received approval from Bell.
The new helicopter’s colours will be different to the navy blue and yellow of the current joint police helicopter and air ambulance.
Mr Philpott said: “All I can say at the moment is that the colour scheme will strongly reflect Wiltshire in it. It will be different to what people have seen in the past.”