WILTSHIRE Air Ambulance will be staying at Wiltshire Police’s hangar when the joint helicopter agreement ends in December this year.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAACT) is looking for a permanent base where it can also build a visitor centre and had asked Wiltshire Police if it could base its new helicopter at the existing hangar at the rear of police headquarters in London Road, Devizes, in the meantime.
The police have now agreed and WAACT chief executive David Philpott expects to sign a lease for the police hangar at the end of this week or early next week.
Mr Philpott said: “It’s good news. It gives us breathing space to find the right location and build the new air base. Devizes is central in the county and it suits us to be based there.”
The lease for the police hangar is for five years but Mr Philpott thinks it is more likely that Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be based there for two to three years. The lease has a clause that both organisations can give six months notice to quit.
WAACT has been looking for suitable locations for a permanent air base for several months and has whittled down the original dozen possible sites to four, of which three are sites where the landowner has approached WAACT, while one is a general location that would be of interest should land become available. All four sites are within ten miles of Devizes.
The shared police helicopter/air ambulance comes to an end after 23 years in December as Wiltshire Police is joining a national police air service based at Filton near Bristol.
WAACT will be using a Bell 429 helicopter, the first of its kind to operate as an air ambulance in the UK, but about 50 operate as air ambulances across the world.
As a consequence of the partnership ending with the police WAACT will have to fund all the costs of its helicopter, compared to a third of the cost of the shared police helicopter, rising from £700,000 a year currently to about £2.5 million.