Director - Planning and Environment
RPS were appointed by Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) to obtain planning permission for an operations base consisting of a landing site, control station, storage and maintenance facilities for air ambulance craft. The proposed site for the base was within the former Maze Long Kesh prison site.
The need for the air ambulance in Northern Ireland was raised after a public campaign ran by RPS’ Marketing Manager Stephen Henderson after the death of Dr John Hinds in July 2015, the campaign went on to receive almost 90,000 signatures. Across England, Scotland and Wales there are currently thirty-three air ambulances; however Northern Ireland with a population of 1.85 million was without a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) until the Northern Ireland Assembly appointed AANI in 2016.
The proposal not only sought permission for the first air ambulance facility within Northern Ireland but also one of only a few within the UK and Ireland that are sited outside an airport or hospital setting.
The Maze Long Kesh site itself has a compelling and varied history, initially as a World War II airfield and then a military camp, detention centre and most recently a prison. At 347 acres, the Maze Long Kesh site is the largest development site of its kind under single ownership in Northern Ireland; as one of the most exciting destinations of its kind, the location has true potential to become a shared space that is welcoming and accessible to all, contributing to peace building and reconciliation.
Whilst being required to have consideration of the wider site context, key issues for planning included flight paths, noise impacts and operational timings, particularly in respect of the local residential communities.
RPS undertook pre-application discussions with both Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council planning and environmental health departments including arranging a site meeting with a flight into the Maze Long Kesh site by one of the UK mainland based air ambulance helicopters.
Following submission to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, planning permission was obtained in February 2017 with the service carrying out its first operations in the following July.
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