A NEW helipad is to be built on the Isle of Gigha after several organisations enquired after the facility.

For the first time, the Corps of Royal Engineers, and the HELP (Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads) Appeal, the only helipad charity in the country, will be working together to build a much-needed emergency helipad on the community owned island.

Gigha is located in the most southerly Hebridean Islands, three miles west of the Kintyre peninsula and around a three-hour drive from Glasgow followed by a 20-minute sailing on a ferry.

Whilst there is a regular ferry service, Gigha’s inaccessibility can be problematic particularly during a medical emergency.

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In 2002, the Gigha islanders purchased the island for £4 million under the Community Right to Buy scheme. They now own it through the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust.

Currently the island operates on a “landing strip” of grass, which is a highly unsuitable surface for its volunteer ambulance service when escorting patients to a helicopter. It can become waterlogged - delaying the transfer to lifesaving treatment at a hospital on the mainland.

HELP will fund the cost of the project - £150,000 - and 39 Engineer Regiment in conjunction with local contractors, will build the helipad. It will be operational by April 2024.

The National:

Robert Bertram, chief executive of the HELP Appeal said: “Gigha needs this helipad now as there is only one surgery on the island with no doctor, so thanks to our supporters, funding is available immediately and with the Royal Engineers on board I’ve no doubt that construction will be as efficient as possible ensuring it opens this spring.

“Once built, the community will never have to fear that ground conditions will let them down again and they can be sure of a swift transfer off the island to hospital whenever they need it. I’m excited that this unique partnership will provide lifesaving access to hospital in an emergency.”

The National:

Jane Millar (above), business development manager of the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust said: “We are completely amazed by this opportunity with the HELP Appeal and Royal Engineers. The issues with the existing airfield have been raised for years, but there never seemed to be a viable solution for the community Trust to take forward.

“We know how difficult the current situation has been for our local emergency services, so this project will hugely support their work, and ensure safe access to hospital for our community. To receive this level of support from the HELP Appeal and the Royal Engineers has been incredible.”

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Gigha resident, Maurice Forster, 53, was airlifted to the HELP appeal funded Queen Elizabeth University Hospital helipad in Glasgow in December 2023 following a medical emergency. Maurice was taken to intensive care immediately after landing.

He shared: “The emergency services were amazing, as was the coordinator between them all. Within 20 minutes, I had arrived in Glasgow. The Air Ambulance is a crucial service, and a permanent landing pad in Gigha will make it even more seamless for our community.”

The HELP Appeal has funded or is funding 15 helipads in Scotland, including at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Campbeltown Hospital.