'˜Miscommunication' over air ambulance landing fee

A Biggleswade school under fire for charging the East Anglia Air Ambulance £50 to land its helicopter at a charity fundraiser has said it will not be invoicing the charity.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 8th September 2016, 4:01 pm
Updated Monday, 12th September 2016, 5:05 pm
East Anglian Air Ambulance PNL-160831-092447002
East Anglian Air Ambulance PNL-160831-092447002

Stratton Upper School headteacher Rob Watson said there had been ‘miscommunication’ over the planned event after the school was asked for the use of its playing fields.

The school had come under heavy fire on social media after news broke that the charity had been forced to pay the cash to attend a fundraiser in Biggleswade on Sunday - ironically for the EAAA.

Mr Watson said: “All of us at Stratton Upper School recognise the enormous value of the air ambulance service and the impact it makes in its vital work across our region. We have been in contact with the regional headquarters of the air ambulance who have assured us that Sunday’s event was a success.

“ I think the issues are best summed up as follows:

“The Weatherly Centre and the school are entirely separate organisations. The booking of the school field is therefore a completely separate matter to booking the Weatherly Centre and vice versa. We would urge any organisation interested in using our school field to make direct contact with the school to avoid confusion and disappointment.

“There are legitimate costs associated with any school based event to ensure the site is safe and secure. In late July the school was made aware of what was being planned and how integral our field would be. Ensuring these costs were covered meant we could allow the event to proceed. The fee was kept to a bare minimum and agreed with the East Anglian Air Ambulance in the middle of August.

“Our relationship with the East Anglian Air Ambulance remains strong and we have been discussing about how we could work closely together in the future.”

Organiser of the fundraiser Jim Brady said earlier this week that the Weatherley Centre, where the main body of events was held on Sunday, had reimbursed the charity after hearing it had been charged.

He said he had had to cancel several of the planned events, which would have taken place on the Stratton school fields, after finding out three weeks ago there wa s an issue with access.

“It wound me right up,” he said, “It was all for a good cause. I was very disappointed.”

Mr Brady said the air ambulance helicopter had proved a big attraction with people taking pictures and youngsters being able to sit in the pilot’s seat.

The ambulance was there for around two hours before it had to go out on an emergency.