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Paddock Wood Town Council votes to opposed new base for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust at Old Hay Airfield

By Claire McWethy

Paddock Wood Town Council has done a dramatic U-turn, by voting to oppose plans for a new HQ for Kent’s air ambulance.

When the authority initially considered the proposals, for a £7.5m helipad and operations base at Old Hay Airfield off Willow Lane, it had registered no objections.

But after hearing from disgruntled residents, councillors decided to withdraw that response and reconsider the application at a meeting of the planning committee on Monday.

The air ambulance. Library picture courtesy of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance
The air ambulance. Library picture courtesy of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance

A spokesman for the council said the decision was made due to “extenuating circumstances and further information that has come to hand.”

Three councillors voted in favour of opposing the plans, with two abstentions, on the grounds of flooding, drainage, access and increased noise.

The HQ would replace two operational bases, at Marden and Redhill and allow the charity to reach emergency incidents anywhere in the South East within 25 minutes.

The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, behind the venture, says it urgently needs a new, single headquarters to serve the region and continue the life-saving night flights which have run from Surrey site since 2013.

The airfield is used by a number of private light aircraft and the Kent Scouts Air Activities Group.

But neighbours have queried how vital the move is to the future of the service, and say the noise could harm their health and quality of life.

Trust chief executive Adrian Bell
Trust chief executive Adrian Bell

In a letter Paul Hawker, who represents the 21 residents of Park Farm in Queen Street, said: “We recognise the value of the air ambulance service to the community and greatly respect the dedication of the pilots, medics and support staff. However, we are gravely concerned by the proposals.”

He said residents were concerned about the the impact of noise of the helicopter flights, estimated to average at around seven per day, and one each night.

The campaigners also said that Willow Lane was a narrow and dangerous country lane which could not accommodate extra traffic and that the area was more residential than it had been described as in the Trust’s planning statement.

An exhibition on the plans was held in November and the application is due to be determined by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council next month.

The Trust did not wish to comment.

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