THE Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal will become an independent charity in September.

The long held ambition will soon be realised after Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) agreed last week to relinquish its sole trusteeship of the appeal.

GWAS had been criticised by air ambulance campaigners for being the sole trustee of the appeal.

GWAS appointed David Philpott as chairman of the air ambulance appeal last July with the remit of establishing the appeal as an independent charity.

Mr Philpott told the Gazette: "I feel very proud and happy that the move to an independent charity has come to fruition.

“As sole trustee of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal it was inevitably conflicted because it was both treasurer and user.

“However, we must not forget that it was the ambulance service that established the charity in the first place and I am grateful for the fair and open way in which they have worked with me over the past year."

A new charity will be set up, called Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, with a new bank account where donations will be paid.

The £1.2 million reserves in the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal will be frozen and set aside for GWAS to use to pay the ambulance service's part of the contract with Wiltshire Police for the joint helicopter/air ambulance.

This contract runs until December 2014, meaning the air ambulance appeal funds will cover 31 months of the remaining 42 months.

Mr Philpott anticipates that the new air ambulance charity will have raised the shortfall of the contract of £440,000 by early next year.

Eight trustees have been appointed to the new air ambulance charity and they will sign the memorandum and articles of association on August 8.

One of the trustees is Richard Youens, a retired loss adjuster in Rushall near Pewsey, who has campaigned for the past three years for GWAS to relinquish control of the air ambulance appeal.

Mr Youens said: “I’m really pleased we have got this far and to maintain continuity of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

“It’s important to have an air ambulance in Wiltshire because it is a huge county.”

Mr Youens said: “The people of Wiltshire are now in control of their own destiny as far as the air ambulance is concerned, which is a big plus.”

Mr Philpott hopes the Charity Commission will register the new charity in September.

He said the charity will work with GWAS during a transitional period until April next year when it is expected to be fully stand alone.

The transitional period will enable the contracts of the two employees and a part timer of the air ambulance charity to be transferred to the new charity and for new support services such as IT and accountancy to be sourced, as these are currently provided by GWAS.

A decision on where the charity is based will also have to be made during that time.

Currently GWAS receives donations at its headquarters in Chippenham while the employees are based at the Air Support Unit at police headquarters in Devizes.

Mr Philpott said that the new charity would have to increase fundraising from the £750,000 a year it currently raises to £2 million to cover the costs of a stand alone helicopter in 2015.

This is the date when it is expected that the police will no longer have a joint helicopter/air ambulance.