PLANS for a new search and rescue helicopter base at Newquay Cornwall Airport have been recommended for approval, despite concerns by local councils.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd hopes to operate two aircraft from the site, which would be available to run rescue missions 24 hours a day within a radius of 250 nautical miles.
The private company is taking over the service from the RAF and Royal Navy next year, after winning the £1.6 billion contract. It will operate 10 sites across the UK.
Both St Mawgan in Pydar Parish Council and St Columb Town Council have raised fears over noise levels and the possible impact on nearby Carnanton House, a Grade II * listed building.
History group English Heritage has also expressed concerns that the proximity of the base could “cause harm to the house’s significance”.
A report by Cornwall Council’s environmental health team suggests helicopters flying overhead could boost noise levels by between 30 and 50 decibels at Carnanton House and nearby properties.
It states: “It is generally regarded that an increase in volume of 10dB would be sufficiently intrusive enough to warrant the refusal of an application.”
However, bosses at Bristow have reassured locals that helicopters would not fly over the listed building or any other residential property in the area.
A council report states: “The applicant has clarified that all take off and landings are to take place from the main runway or taxiway only, including life and death missions, and there is to be no overflying of residential properties, including Carnanton House and properties at Carloggas.”
Bristow has also pledged to “review the operating conditions for all flights and agrees to place restrictions that reduce impacts of potential noise when operating from this site.”
Cornwall Council’s planners have recommended that members of its Central Sub Area Planning Committee should allow the head of planning to approve the application under delegated authority, subject to conditions on noise levels. They will make a decision next Monday (February 17).
News of the creation of a search and rescue base at Newquay was welcomed by community leaders in the resort last year, who described it as a “vote of confidence in the airport”.
John Fitter, Cornwall councillor for St Mawgan and Colan, said: “This is brilliant news for the community that lives around St Mawgan to have the search and rescue helicopter based there. There will be job opportunities for people and they will be recruiting some staff locally.”
The move marks the end of several decades of search and rescue provided by the RAF and Royal Navy, which ran a 40-strong fleet of Sea King helicopters. Under the new contract, 22 Sikorsky S92 helicopters will operate from the 10 UK sites.