GREAT Western Air Ambulance is to have a new base at Almondsbury in south Gloucestershire and a £1m grant is heading its way.

The news makes an ideal Christmas present for the charity and GWAAC chief executive John Christensen said the new facility, which has just been given planning permission, will secure the long term future of the air ambulance and ensure the medical crew can continue to save lives for years to come.

He said: “It has been a fantastic week for the charity and is a great way for us to end the year. Finding a new base has been a long journey for us, and I am glad that it is now finally over, and we can begin work. Our main focus has been to find a site that is easily accessible both by helicopter and car, and the Almondsbury site was the only viable option. I am pleased that we will have a modern base that will ensure that we can continue to provide this life-saving service. This news was made even better by the fact that we were awarded £1m from the Libor fund. We have received an incredible amount of support from the people in the counties we serve, and cross party support from our local MPs, and we are very grateful to them all. However even though we have been awarded this grant it is imperative that we continue our fundraising efforts. This is a one off donation, we still need to fund the service we provide, including all the advanced medical equipment we have.”

The decision to grant planning permission marks the end of four years of work, in which hundreds of sites were surveyed. The Almondsbury site was the only viable option, as it has good links for not only the helicopter, but also the two critical care cars. A new modern hanger will be built, which will house the GWAAC helicopter alongside the police helicopter. This hanger will be a significant upgrade on the current hanger, which was built during the First World War and is one of the oldest surviving hangers in the UK. It will finally allow the charity to operate out of a building that is fit for purpose.

GWAAC has been based on Filton airfield since its first flight in 2008. However the airfield is being developed, which meant that the charity needed a new home to operate from. Work is set to begin on the new base for GWAAC and NPAS early 2017, and the charity hopes to be operational from the site by the end of the year.