Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots has welcomed confirmation that Northern Ireland’s air ambulance service is to be based at the Maze site near Lisburn.
Land for the new Helicopter Emergency Medical Service is being made available by the Northern Ireland Executive.
The charity behind the initiative, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, says it hopes the life-saving service will be fully operational by March 2017.
The Maze site was given the green light by the Executive following a test landing last week, which was used to assess a number of factors such as noise levels.
It’s understood a building at the Maze will be converted into hangar space for two helicopters, as well as changing facilities for crew and an operations room.
Welcoming the move, Mr Poots said: “I would warmly welcome this on a number of fronts. The air ambulance is something that has been needed for a long time and it is great news that it has finally come to fruition.
“It’s an excellent, central location and the air ambulance will be dealing mainly with major trauma and severe heart and stoke conditions and so forth, so the skills base that is required is incredibly high.”
The DUP man added: “It’s also good news for the Maze site in that it hasn’t been as well utilised as it should have been for a considerable period of time.
“I would hope that a number of other developments will take place on the site on the back of this decision. It certainly indicates that there is a greater degree of willingness to do things on the site.”
Annual running costs for the new service will be around £1.8m, and Air Ambulance Northern Ireland is relying on the generosity of local people to help raise the necessary funds.
The main helicopter will bear the call sign Delta 7 in memory of the late Dr John Hinds - the Co Down man who led a campaign for an air ambulance service to be introduced in Northern Ireland.