A PERMANENT base for Wiltshire Air Ambulance is unlikely to be ready for two years.
The Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust is searching for a new base. 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 of the trust, said the charity was talking to Wiltshire Police about whether it can base the new helicopter at the existing hangar 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 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 long to secure planning permission and undertake construction.
He said: “Our expectation is that the air ambulance will stay either at police HQ in Devizes or a temporary hangar until our new purpose-built facility is readyin the 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 landowners who are interested in offering us a temporary hangar,” he added.
The has a project team which has 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 the trust was ‘very optimistic’ about one such location and were in early negotiations with the landowner.
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.”