The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has moved one step closer to relocating to a new base after plans were approved by Stockton Borough Council.
GNAAS hopes to develop a medical centre of excellence at the Urlay Nook site – formerly occupied by Elementis – with accommodation for its aircraft and office facilities for charity staff.
Last week, the charity was informed that its plans had been granted meaning negotiations on the lease terms of the site can now begin.
A GNAAS spokesman said: “We are pleased to have secured permission for the site but there are still hurdles to overcome. We must now agree lease terms with the current site owner and until we’ve done that we obviously cannot commit to any timescales.”
The development would result in the charity leaving its Durham Tees Valley Airport base, as well as its office in Darlington town centre. Its base at Langwathby, near Penrith, will not be affected.
Explaining the background to the project, the spokesman continued: “The charity has grown from just one man to an employer of around 50 people. Most of these work in frontline healthcare but they are supported by essential support services such as our fundraising operation which last year alone had to generate £5.1m to keep the aircraft and crew flying.
“The standard of pre-hospital healthcare has risen significantly in the last ten years and we have been at the forefront of that, pioneering developments such as carrying doctors on board, offering roadside blood transfusions, and delivering ultrasound capabilities to the scene.
“But time doesn’t stand still. We want to be able to offer our patients the best possible care and in order to do that we must commit to a programme of research and development that will allow us to drive standards ever higher. There are projects in the pipeline now that we think will make a dramatic difference to the outcome of some critically ill patients.
“To continue to offer this level of innovation, we need to have the facilities for our clinicians to advance their techniques and carry out their research projects. We also want to be able to share our expertise with other healthcare workers from this region and beyond.
“Our current premises would simply not be sufficient in terms of space or facilities to make this a reality. We started looking for a new site several years ago. We have a duty to our supporters to get the best value for money, so our search has been exhaustive.
“The site at Urlay Nook presents the best option and we are hoping to make it our new home.”