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Applecross helipad bid follows big-hearted campaign after tragic death of teenager

By Louise Glen

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A PLANNING application for a lifesaving helicopter landing area in Wester Ross has been lodged after the tragic death of an 18-year-old.

The helipad, planned by Applecross and District Healthcare Association, for an area near Applecross Village Hall, would speed up emergency transfers to Raigmore Hospital and could be key in saving lives, say applicants.

The application comes after a crowdfunding campaign was launched last year by Wester Ross resident Heather Teale, who lost her daughter to sepsis, to raise the £30,000 required to build the 32x32 metre area.

As part of her fundraising efforts, Ms Teale said: "Applecross is a very remote community in the Scottish Highlands, accessible only by single track roads, the shortest route being over the Beallach Na Bar, the highest mountain pass in Britain.

"The time to drive from here to hospital is two hours, even longer in the summer months when the roads are busy due to tourism, added to this is the length of time it takes to get an ambulance here in the first place, not to mention weather conditions in winter.

"In an emergency the Air Ambulance is of vital importance.

"Last year I lost my beautiful 18-year-old daughter Bethany to sepsis. The Air Ambulance took us from here to hospital in just 34 minutes, sadly in her case she did not survive, due to the nature of sepsis.

"In an emergency every minute saved in journey time gives a higher chance of survival, the Air Ambulance saves hours not minutes."

In supporting information lodged alongside its planning application, Applecross and District Healthcare Association said: "Road access to the [Applecross] peninsula is via a single track road, with passing places, over the mountains. Emergency Service response by road is therefore problematic at any time of year.

"In summer the road is congested with summer traffic, caravans and RVs etc, and in winter the road is often blocked or impassable due to weather."

They added that the north coast road, which serves as a diversion route whenever the Bealach na Ba is blocked, is also "subject to the same traffic and weather constraints" as the mountain pass.

They continued: "Applecross does not have a dedicated Air Ambulance landing site.

"Due to the tragic loss of an 18 year old last year, the Applecross community are keen to identify and fund raise to install a permanent helicopter landing site and they have reached out to NHS Highland (NHSH) for guidance.

"On the advice of NHS Highland and Bristow Helicopters, who operate the Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter, the Applecross Community Trust commissioned the author to assist in identifying a suitable area for development."

If approved, the helipad will be covered in grass, with the soil and grass top "underpinned by fabric mesh on top of a hard core base and under base of solid rock".

The perimeter of the helipad will also be marked with standard paving slabs, no more than five metres apart. Slabs will also be used to mark the pad with an "H".

To make a donation to the campaign visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/heather-teale-1 .

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