25-Nov-2015 Source: HeliHub.com
Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) is progressing its plans to move onto a single base from where both helicopter operations and all charity functions can be run. WAA has confirmed they have submitted an Outline Planning Application to Wiltshire Council for its proposals at a 12.6 acre (5.1 hectare) site on land at Outmarsh Farm, Semington, immediately south of Hampton Park West Industrial Estate. The site is currently farm land and would provide good approach and landing areas from the east and west.
At present, the administration and fundraising functions are based on an industrial estate in Calne, while the helicopter operations are based at the Wiltshire Police HQ at Devizes. The latter is a throwback to the times prior to the end of 2014 when the Air Ambulance was part of the Police operation of an MD Explorer from the same site. From January 2015, the Police aspects were taken over by NPAS (National Police Air Service) and WAA started operations with their yellow and green Bell 429 – the first (and so far only) one of that type operated for EMS work in the UK. The aircraft is operated for WAA by Heli-Charter.
The timing of the proposed construction of the new facility is central to this, as WAA’s agreement to use the Police hangar expires in December 2017 and the Calne offices the following month. Following positive public consultation, the WAA charity has agreed to purchase the site subject to planning permission being granted.
The planning application can be viewed online at Wiltshire County Council’s website – search on the application here – the reference number is 15/10766/OUT
On reviewing the published documentation, there is a heap of information about ecological impact, visual impact, community impact, materials to be used, site plans, comments from the public consultation and so on – but nothing on the aviation aspects. The plans call for an east/west approach and landing area, and there is a major road immediately east of the site running north-south as shown in the diagram below. HeliHub.com asked WAA’s Jill Crooks about the existence of consultation documentation with, for example, the Civil Aviation Authority. She advised that WAA will be proposing that the Final Approach and Take-Off Area (FATO) is positioned centrally on the site, which would ensure that the aircraft overflies the A350 road at 250 feet or higher. Crooks added that if further clearance is deemed necessary then take-off in the easterly direction could potentially commence nearer to the western edge of the site, taking the helicopter to a height to 400+ feet above the traffic. WAA will also be seeking ‘low flying aircraft’ road signs on the A350, thus warning approaching motorists of the activity and the likelihood of low flying aircraft. From the way the response to HeliHub.com was worded, it would appear that this aspect of the planning is not yet in place or formally documented.
This should minimise the potential for a motorist suddenly being startled by a very low flying helicopter, given the site is hidden by hedges from the road. Similar questions were raised recently at the proposed joint Police/Ambulance base at Almondsbury adjacent to the M5 motorway.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
The green lines and arrow show immediately adjacent roads and the access point.