It's five years ago this week since a potential significant increase in the use of an airfield in Epping Forest was being welcomed.

A potential relocation of the Met Police helicopter base to North Weald Airfield could bring 20,000 extra air movements to the site each year.

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) has approached Epping Forest District Council, which owns the airfield after it was given notice to leave Lippitts Hill at High Beach by March next year.

The Met has stationed three helicopters at Lippitts Hill since 1980, however, NPAS wants to move the unit as part of an £11 million bid to cut costs.

North Weald councillor, Anne Grigg, told a parish council meeting: "At present all the responses have been positive but we have a long way to go on that.

"For over 20 years I've been trying to keep flying at North Weald. There is a possibility this agreement could safeguard flying at North Weald for the future. We need to look at it carefully."

Acting council chairman Baden Clegg claimed he summed up the feeling of councillors at the meeting, saying: "We more than quite welcome the addition of the police helicopter at North Weald."

The move would bring an additional 20,000 air movements a year to the airfield, with the police helicopters operating 24 hours a day.

NAPS would require at least one acre of land at the airfield where a new hangar could be built, along with some portable office accommodation for support staff.

The airfield is already used as a base by the Herts and Essex Air Ambulance Service, which has recently approached the council about establishing a more permanent base at the site.

A report to the district council cabinet highlights the potential increase in flights and says it is a "key consideration" for any potential relocation.

While the air ambulance service currently registers some 1,300 movements a year, NAPS operation would see movements capped at 20,000 a year, with flights 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The cabinet report states that negotiations with NAPS indicate that Epping Forest District Council could receive about £120,000 per annum in ground rent and movement fees.

The parish cabinet report concludes: "Councillor will need to balance the likely environmental impact against the potential revenue benefits to the council of the proposal, which is in line with the council’s stated objective of intensifying aviation activity.

"This also needs to be considered alongside our role as a public body in supporting the police in ensuring community safety and crime reduction."