DOZENS of Almondsbury residents, including a retired airline pilot and planning expert, expressed their concern over plans to build a helicopter base in the village at a meeting of Almondsbury Parish Council.

An application to develop the land next to the Almondsbury Interchange was submitted in April.

The base would house the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) and the police helicopter services.

Currently they are based at Filton Airfield but have been seeking an alternative site with the airfield being redeveloped.

Earlier this month the area’s MP Jack Lopresti urged BAE Systems, who run the airfield, to honour its promise to find a site on the airfield for the air ambulance helicopter to operate from.

A number of residents from the village, as well as a resident of neighbouring Bradley Stoke, spoke at Almondsbury Parish Council’s meeting on Tuesday, May 19 raising a number of concerns with the proposals.

Franz Ehrengruber, a retired pilot who has flown in and out of Filton airfield, urged councillors to consider a range of aviation issues.

“From an aviation point of view the site is totally unacceptable,” he said. “There is a hill, a number of obstacles including the RAC tower and power lines. It is a dangerous site.

“Visibility may be severely restricted due to these obstacles and at times this will mean that flights will have to be cancelled. I suspect the helicopter pilots and operators had little say in it."

Cllr Dr Andy Tubb said: “I don’t think we have any chance of not objecting to this application because we always object to development on the green belt.

“This land has been designated as good quality green belt land and I certainly don’t intend to lose another blade of grass from it.”

Cllr Richard Jones agreed with the views of the majority of the public and his fellow councillors but was keen to point out the public support for GWAAC’s work.

“I don’t think anyone would not be glad if they were lying in a mangled mess of motorway madness to hear the sound of the air ambulance approaching.

“However I am concerned about the continued rape of green space in the area. We have fought battles in the past to try and keep our green spaces and lost but I think this is a battle we can win.”

John Christensen, GWAAC chief executive, said: “Some people seem to think we’ve chosen the Almondsbury site out of convenience, but if there was another site available that was more appropriate then of course we would have gone for it – the truth is that this is the only site available that meets our needs.

"Even here we have to make some changes, such as putting the overhead power lines next to the A38 underground, in order to remove this potential obstruction to our flight path.

"The helicopter operators for both the air ambulance and the police have been involved every step of the way in choosing the site and fully agree this is the right one.

“We couldn’t continue to operate from the former airfield, either during construction or once it is fully developed. And going further away from Bristol means longer response times, in a scenario where every minute can make the difference between life and death.”

More than 100 comments of objection have been submitted to the council with the deadline for neighbour consultation responses extended to Friday, May 22.