DEFENCE chiefs have lodged plans for a permanent helicopter refuelling depot on the outskirts of Fort William, close to the busy A82 trunk road.
The move comes despite concerns aired earlier this year about road safety and the suitability of the site at Carr’s Corner.
The Ministry of Defence submitted the planning application to Highland Council’s planning service in Lochaber last week.
The site, within a large area of open land to the north-east of Highland Council’s TEC Service depot at Carr’s Corner, on the northern entrance to the town, has been used by RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard search and rescue choppers on a temporary basis since May, after the closure of the previous refuelling facility at the former pulp mill in Corpach.
In the summer, the leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, John Stevenson, said there were “major concerns” about the suitability of the Carr’s Corner site due to its proximity to the A82. The Lochaber News was told that Northern Constabulary had also expressed worries about the potential for road accidents to happen due to motorists “rubber necking” when one of the giant Sea King or Coastguard aircraft comes in to land.
This week, Mr Stevenson said the site “was not ideal” but confirmed LMRT would not be formally objecting to the plan.
In 2011, helicopters were used in 51 per cent of LMRT’s rescue operations.
The frequent attendance of choppers to assist LMRT and their counterparts at Glencoe has prompted both teams to call for a search and rescue aircraft to be based in the Fort William area permanently when RAF and Royal Navy services are replaced by a fully-civilian set-up in 2016.