Controversial plans for the Metropolitan Police to return the site of its former airbase in Lippitts Hill are being opposed by the council.

The leader of Epping Forest District Council has written to Met Commissioner Cressida Dick in a plea for the force to reconsider the move.

Cllr Chris Whitbread cited ‘serious concerns’ over the economic impact of the airbase – with pollution already ‘too high’ – and the noise and traffic impacts on residents.

The Met first opened an air base in Lippitts Hil, High Beach, in 1980 but in 2017 agreed to transfer operations to the National Police Air Service signing a 25-year lease with the council to operate from North Weald Airfield.

Cllr Chris Whitbread said: “The forest is a sensitive and delicate natural environment. It is a Special Area of Conservation of global significance, being one of the few remaining areas of original deciduous woodland left in the UK. The delicate eco-system of Epping Forest including special and rare species, plants and fungi is particularly vulnerable to air pollution.

Epping Forest Guardian:

Cllr Chris Whitbread has written to the Met Commissioner opposing the move

“The environmental pressures on the Ffrest are severe. Pollution levels are too high… The environmental impact of helicopter operations speaks for itself.”

In 2019 the council agreed to the construction of a brand-new £4 million National Police Air Service (NPAS) airbase at North Weald Airfield – which has been serving the Met Police’s needs.

“While our major concerns are not financial in this case,” Cllr Whitbread continued.

“NPAS has a long lease with thecCouncil and will continue to provide air support for other police forces. It cannot be good value for the tax paying residents of either London or Essex, for the Metropolitan Police to leave such a recently delivered new facility.”

The Tory council leader also argued the case of residents in and around Lippitts Hill.

“It is one thing to buy a new house or home next to an existing airfield – you know what you are getting with aircraft coming and going before you purchase. However, many of the residents in and around Lippitts Hill have had no such choice. Many will have bought their homes in good faith and the understanding that helicopter operations had ceased with no reason to expect a return,” he said.

Cllr Whitbread acknowledged the current base at North Weald may not meet the requirements of the force but ‘respectfully’ stated Lippitts Hill was ‘not the answer’ to the Met’ problems.

He added; “There are many other potential aviation locations both in and around London that would serve the Metropolitan Police Service just as well if not better than Lippitts Hill.

“If you are determined to find an alternative, please take a closer look at some of the other alternatives and help us to protect and preserve Epping Forest now and for the future.”