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A unique rural partnership has successfully established a night landing site for Devon Air Ambulance on farmland in Romansleigh, in North Devon.

Representatives from Devon Air Ambulance, Airband (the rural broadband provider) and Romansleigh Parish Council gathered to celebrate the launch of the night landing site with the Webber family of Romansleigh Barton, near South Molton.

Toby Russell, from Devon Air Ambulance, explained the background of the project: “Several years ago, Richard Webber kindly contacted Devon Air Ambulance to see if part of his family farm could be used as a community landing site. These floodlit surveyed sites are used by our crews to fly into the ‘heart of communities’ when it is dark.

“By using surveyed sites, our pilots and crew can appreciate the features of a landing area before they arrive on scene. The remotely controlled lighting helps crews by illuminating the site during landing and take-off as well as helping medical teams when moving around the site and for the safe carry and loading of a patient into the helicopter.

“An initial review of several open flat areas of land at Romansleigh Barton identified a potential site in a field in the centre of the village. On further inspection it became clear that a nearby telegraph pole, owned by Airband, could provide a unique opportunity to install new lighting to illuminate the night landing site. Following an early conversation with Airband, outlining the project and how it could benefit local people, the team at the independent broadband provider were quick to lend their support and with the backing of Romansleigh Parish Council the project was soon under way.”

Andrew Roberts, Channel Account Manager at Airband, said: “Airband were very pleased to be approached by the Devon Air Ambulance service with their request to utilise our mast at Romansleigh, originally built as part of our partnership with Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) to deliver essential broadband services to rural Devon. The collaboration between the Webber family, the Parish Council and Airband will help further extend the coverage of essential, life preserving emergency services that the Devon Air Ambulance provide at night.”

Despite some delays due to the pandemic, the project has recently gathered pace culminating in contractors recently working at the farm to install new remotely controlled lighting onto the Airband telegraph pole and establish a fenced area around the night landing site with emergency access. These works have been funded by contributions from Romansleigh Parish Council, District and County Councillors, and a grant provided by Devon Air Ambulance through funding from the LIBOR Bank Fines.

Richard Webber, of Romansleigh Barton, said: “We are delighted to have been able to provide this site for the community, not just for Romansleigh but hopefully also serving some of the other neighbouring small villages and rural inhabitants. It has been a real team effort in bringing this plan to fruition and our thanks go to Toby at the DAA for coordinating the project.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, CDS Board Member and Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said: “Airband is supporting local communities through its work with the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme, and the use of their mast at Romansleigh is another vital contribution to communities in Devon. I’m pleased that Airband’s work with CDS has been able to provide this additional resource for the Devon Air Ambulance to support their emergency response and all of the partners involved in this project should be applauded for their role in helping make this initiative possible.”

At the recent gathering to launch the new landing site, Nigel Young, Chairman of Romansleigh Parish Council, said: “We are delighted to have provided funding for this night landing site, in partnership with both our District and County Councillors. It will provide real benefit to the local community in the event of anyone being critically ill or involved in an accident by receiving a speedy and professional response from Devon Air Ambulance. We also must thank Richard Webber for providing the site to be able to make this happen.”

Toby Russell added: “Devon Air Ambulance is extremely grateful to everyone who has made the Romansleigh night landing site become a reality. From the outset the Webber family have been incredibly supportive and with the combined efforts of Airband and the local Parish Council, this partnership has created a community asset that could prove vital for those facing a life-changing or life-threatening illness or accident.

“This site forms part of a network of nearly 40 community landing sites in North Devon, and in total 180 across Devon. Every one of these projects represents an enormous amount of hard work and dedication by our local communities and we are hugely grateful for their support of Devon Air Ambulance.”