INCONSISTENCIES over whether or not two helicopter services can remain in Filton have angered people in Almondsbury.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) wrote to South Gloucestershire Council earlier this month asking for a “binding legal requirement” to be added to a council report to guarantee a site for the continued operations of the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) and police helicopter service (NPAS) on the Filton Airfield site.

This was subsequently agreed by councillors who gave the go-ahead for the 2,500-home development of the Filton Airfield.

However, at a public meeting last week, attended by about 100 members of the public, representatives of the two helicopter services said that they “can’t stay” on the site.

The two services, in conjunction with BAE Systems who own the airfield site, have submitted plans for a preferred option to build a new base for the two services next to the M4/M5 junction in Almondsbury.

At the meeting, organised by Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti and held on Friday, June 19, Paul Timmins, from Almondsbury, criticised the justification for proposing to develop the base on green belt land, next to the Almondsbury Interchange.

National planning document, the National Planning Policy Framework, says that development of the green belt, other than infill in defined settlement boundaries, should only be permitted under "very special circumstances".

Mr Timmins questioned the developers’ judgement of what amounted to very special circumstances saying: “You’ve talked about the operators preferring to move – forgive me but that doesn’t seem like very special circumstances to me.

“I don’t consider the fact that you would like to move to be very special circumstances.”

In response, chief superintendent Caroline Peters, representing NPAS, responded by saying: “The airfield site is going to be a construction site for probably 15 to 20 years.

“We have to be able to maintain our air operations services and that means that we can’t stay where we are – it’s not fit for purpose.”

This was reiterated by John Christensen, chief executive of GWAAC, who said during the meeting that the charity “can’t stay” where it is.

BAE Systems maintain that they are guided by the two services as to what best meets their needs, but head of government relations, Bob Keen, admitted that “any on-site Filton solution would be a much poorer solution”.

The variation in responses, from asking the council to guarantee a site on Filton Airfield to telling the public at a meeting that they cannot stay on the site, was criticised by Julian Stinton, who lives in The Hill, Almondsbury.

He said: “The fact that they’re telling the council one thing and then the public another is really concerning.

“I wonder what other things they’re telling us that may not be correct. It seems that they’re telling councillors one thing and then the public another.”

Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “This service has been based at Filton Airfield since the early 1980s and has strong links with the area, so it is important that the airfield is fully assessed as one of the potential permanent sites.

“It is vital that we secure the best site to fulfil long-term operational capabilities.

“The NPAS – alongside Avon and Somerset Constabulary – will continue to work closely with partners to explore the viability of sites beyond the former airfield boundary including Almondsbury.

“Above all, we need to continue to give local people the high level of service they expect so will continue looking carefully at all options.”