PLAID Cymru are to put forward a motion to keep the Wales Air Ambulance base in Powys open after shock plans announced this week by the charity that could close it after 16 years.

The lifesaving charity has been serving Powys from its base at Welshpool airport since 2006 but air ambulance chiefs revealed on Wednesday that the base could close and be covered by others in North and South Wales

The charity has two bases in the south of the country, in Cardiff and Llanelli, with one in the north, located in Caernarfon.

There is no definitive timescale for the plans and the charity says if there are changes it is expected they will take “some time” to implement. But Sue Barnes, the charity’s chief executive, did say there is “strong evidence” that Powys, as well as every other part of Wales, would actually benefit from the proposed changes.

Despite this, Plaid Cymru say they will put a motion forward at the next full meeting of Powys County Council (PCC) to oppose any closure plans. The next full council meeting is set to take place on Thursday, October 6, in Llandrindod Wells.

“The air ambulance has provided an essential and valuable service to Mid Wales for a number of years,” said Plaid councillors Elwyn Vaughan and Gary Mitchell in a joint statement.

“The proposed transfer of the base from Welshpool is therefore a retrograde step and one of great concern to our residents.

“It is imperative that an equally efficient service that takes into consideration the rurality of the area, the difficulty of getting an ordinary ambulance and fewer health options is kept

“We therefore call on the air ambulance base to be kept at Welshpool and to look into the option of extending the hours of service.”

An online petition launched in the wake of last week’s news, by Newtown councillor Joy Jones and supported Plaid duo, Cllr Vaughan and Cllr Mitchell, gained more than 3,000 signatures in less than a day; and has now been signed by more than 6,770 people.

The Wales Air Ambulance said the plans would help it to run more life-saving missions, creating the capacity for an additional 583 missions across Wales each year – put another way they say it would increase the potential number of Powys patients reached by 11 per cent.

“Through the trust that the public has placed in us over the past 21 years, we have been able to evolve into one of the most advanced air ambulance operations in Europe,” said Dr Barnes.

“We have a track record of making decisions with patients and their families at our heart.

“For people in Powys, it may seem counterintuitive that us moving away from their county would bring any benefits. But that is what our analysis is strongly conveying and it’s important to remember that we go to the patient, the patient doesn’t come to us.

“There is strong evidence that says this region, as well as every other part of Wales, will benefit from the proposed changes.”

The charity said it has been undertaking a major review of its operations, with analysis it claims is among the “most comprehensive conducted by any air ambulance in the world”. It says a reconfiguration would significantly increase its ability to respond to incidents.

That would see the Welshpool crews co-located with the North Wales operation at a location to be decided. At present its north Wales helicopter is based in Caernarfon, but new plans suggest it could also move.

But Welshpool mayor Alison Davies has questioned the findings of the Wales Air Ambulance study.

“The proposed closure on Wales Air Ambulance location at Mid Wales Airport has been met with very considerable concern,” she said.

“To even consider pulling the Air Ambulance service out of the most rural county in Wales is extraordinary. I know personally of accidents when no other emergency medical support could have reached the location.”

Cllr James Gibson-Watt, the leader of PCC, also expressed his concern at the charity’s announcement. He said: “The Wales Air Ambulance Service is a vital service, especially for a rural county such as Powys. It also receives a huge amount of public support from our residents.

“It is therefore disappointing and extremely concerning that their proposal could see their Welshpool base close.

“We will be seeking assurances from senior representatives at Wales Air Ambulance that changes won't impact on our residents.

“We will also be asking for an explanation for the justification for this proposal, in particular how moving their base from Welshpool to North Wales will enhance the service for our residents.”