Published: 00:01, 30 October 2015
The air ambulance could soon be a familiar sight in the skies above Paddock Wood, as the charity looks to relocate after 25 years.
For the past quarter of a century the charity has been operating out of Pattenden Lane in Marden and has a second site in Redhill in Surrey.
Now the trust says it urgently needs a new, single headquarters to serve the whole of Kent, Surrey and Sussex and continue the life-saving night flights which have run from Redhill since 2013.
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Much of the £7.5m needed to build the helipad, hangar and offices for the base, at Old Hay Airfield off Willow Lane, has already been secured, thanks to donations and legacies.
Now, after two years of planning, the charity is ready to submit a planning application within the next month.
Adrian Bell, chief executive of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, said: “Running such an operation out of two bases is a hell of a pull on the charity and will break us in time.
"I considered an awful lot of other sites and have driven walked and even flown around the area.
“This is the best place for us. Any other option comprises to some degree the integrity of the operation we provide to Kent, Surrey and Sussex.”
If given the go-ahead, the base could be up-and-running by the end of 2017 and would mean the two helicopters would be poised, ready to reach any emergency in the region within 25 minutes. The charity’s fundraising arm will remain in Marden and training operations at Benenden.
Roger Ludgate built the airfield in 1988 and is now one of four aeroplane enthusiasts who own the 57-acre site.
The architect said: “When the air ambulance trust approached me, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to help provide vital services in the community.”
Mr Bell added: “Five years ago we treated about 1,100 patients a year, this year it is approaching 2,000. If we get this base operational I would expect that figure to keep climbing. There are many more people who will still need our help.
“Kent is where the heart of the charity is and to wrench it out of Kent I think would be quite a dramatic move and one I wouldn’t want to see.”
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More by this authorClaire McWethy