Published: 00:01, 04 May 2017
Plans to build a new base for Kent’s air ambulance, which the charity says is critical to its future, have been opposed by neighbours.
The trust, which has been in the Weald for more than a quarter of a century, wants to move to Rochester Airport along with its 30-strong staff and new, larger helicopters.
The aircraft, due to be delivered later this year, will not be able to use the helipad at its existing Pattenden Lane site in Marden.
The charity hopes to use Rochester Airport as an operating base for its main HQ at Redhill, being used most days, with a new office built for management, administration and fundraising staff.
But while the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust (KSSAAT) says the number of flights would be less than the 1,600 a year carried out by the sightseeing business whose hangar it would be taking over, some neighbours are opposed.
Leslie and Lynn Ellison, from Wilson Road, Rochester, said: “The main objection is the excess of noise and depreciation in property values this application is going to help inflict, and long term pain, on all living near by.
“Our neighbour works nights and uses earplugs during the day but they don’t stop the helicopter vibrations.”
Meanwhile George Embleton, from Maidstone Road, Chatham, raised concerns about safety in the event of a crash, given the helipad’s proximity to homes and schools.
He said: “The application is a dilemma for people, like myself, who support both the air ambulance and opposition to the airport masterplan.”
A previous plan to move to Paddock Wood faced a huge backlash after residents complained.
So far the latest application has had just one letter of support, from Kiran Reardon, from Canterbury Road, Sittingbourne.
He said: “Although the local community may feel it’s an 5el of noise, which is minimal, it is more inconvenient for the person who needs this vital service if it wasn’t available to them.”
The leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con) said he welcomes the proposals, saying: “It’s good news for the airport and good news for Rochester.”
The service needs £6.5m each year to survive – with communities across Kent stepping up to organise fundraisers.
The plans are expected to be determined in the next month.
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