Police helicopter move to North Weald ‘could safeguard flying at airfield’
THE possible relocation of the Metropolitan Police helicopter base to North Weald Airfield could safeguard flying at the airfield, the parish council believes.
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) has approached Epping Forest District Council, which owns the airfield, about the possible move as it has been given notice to leave Lippitts Hill at High Beach by the time its lease expires at the end of March next year.
District and parish councillor Anne Grigg told last night’s parish council meeting: “At present all the responses (I have received) have been positive but we have a long way to go on that.
“For over 20 years I’ve been trying to keep flying at North Weald. There is a possibility this agreement could safeguard flying at North Weald for the future. We need to look at it carefully.”
Acting council chairman Baden Clegg said he summed up the feeling of councillors at the meeting saying: “We more than quite welcome the addition of the police helicopter at North Weald.”
The move would bring an additional 20,000 air movements (10,000 up and 10,000 down) a year, with the police helicopters operating 24 hours a day.
To accommodate the aircraft and have space to store and maintain its fleet NAPS would need at least one acre of land where a 35m x 35m (1,225sq.m) hangar could be built, along with some portable office accommodation for support staff.
The airfield is already used as a base by the Herts and Essex Air Ambulance Service which has recently approached the council about establishing a more permanent base at the airfield. It currently operates two helicopters from North Weald.
A report to Thursday’s district council cabinet highlights the potential increase in flights and says it is a “key consideration” for any potential relocation.
While the air ambulance service currently registers some 1,300 movements a year the NAPS operation would see some 20,000 movements per annum with flights 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The cabinet report states that negotiations with NAPS indicate that Epping Forest District Council could receive about £120,000 per annum in ground rent and movement fees (with the number of movements capped at 20,000).
The cabinet report concludes: “In reaching a decision on the NPAS proposal, members (councillors) will need to balance the likely environmental impact against the potential revenue benefits to the council of the proposal, which is in line with the council’s stated objective of intensifying aviation activity.
“This also needs to be considered alongside our role as a public body in supporting the police in ensuring community safety and crime reduction.”
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