Plans to move Kent air ambulance base to Rochester Airport from Marden clear first hurdle
PUBLISHED: 13:51 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:51 14 June 2017
The charity has decided its current site is no longer viable
Plans to move Kent air ambulance’s operational base from Marden to land at Rochester Airport have moved a step closer after an application was rubber-stamped by councillors this week.
Bosses at the charity, which also operates in Surrey and Sussex, decided the current site was no longer viable, and submitted plans for an office building with associated parking be constructed on the sight.
Medway planning chiefs resolved to approve the proposal on Tuesday night, and will now write to the secretary of state asking for him to call the application in.
The council says it is waiting to hear from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The air ambulance trust’s plan would mean relocating some 30 staff to a new office block on the site which would accommodate 14 additional staff members plus six visiting pilots and crew.
A 24/7 service is offered by the charity but Marden is not configured for night flying and therefore night-time operations are conducted from Redhill instead.
Additionally, its current two helicopters are in the process of being replaced for larger rotorcraft which would not fit at the existing base.
Therefore, a decision has been taken for both helicopters to be based at Redhill operating out of a suitable (with adaptation) hanger that has become available there.
However, bosses are keen to maintain their Kent roots and remain in the county, which they say is “the established heart of the organisation”.
The proposal is to erect a two storey, pre-fabricated, headquarters office building on the identified vacant site.
As there is no planning restriction on the number of emergency helicopter movements that are allowed at the airport, the operational activities of the trust there are not a matter for planning consideration.
The charity relies almost entirely on public donations for the approximately £8m per year it spends on providing the service.
Locals appeared to be overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals, after the council received some 236 comments of support, compared to just 11 objections.
Potential issues raised by protesters generally centred around noise pollution.
Other authorities were also consulted, including Highways England, which concluded the proposal would not jeopardise the safety, reliability and effectiveness of the strategic road network, and the Kent Downs AONB Unit which had no comments to make.