A police helicopter base is set to close as part of a shake-up of the service.

The Metropolitan Police has stationed three helicopters at Lippitts Hill in High Beach since 1980, but the National Police Air Service (NPAS) announced on Friday it is set to close the site next year to cut costs.

All Met services and contracts are to operate under NPAS ownership from March 31 and the air support unit will move to a base in Elstree, Hertfordshire.

NPAS is planning to closes seven bases in the next few years, in an attempt to save up to £11million. 

Under NPAS policy the nearest aircraft now attends call-outs rather than individual forces operating their own helicopters.

The new base is expected to serve Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex and London.

Mark Burns-Williamson, chairman of the NPAS Strategic Board, said: "It has not been an easy decision to move to a 15-base model but these are the sort of difficult decisions that have to be taken with the economic climate we are all operating in.

The Lippitts Hill site was used as a base for anti-aircraft guns during the Second World War and remaining bunkers are grade II-listed.

German prisoners of war were also held there.

Recently nearby residents have expressed concern that flightpaths agreed to minimise disturbance were not being adhered to.

Conservative Cllr Syd Stavrou, of High Beech, said it was a “shame to lose the history but not the noisy helicopters”.

She said: “They are civilian pilots, so it is not like living next to a police station.

 “They have excellent Grade II-listed buildings in there. I can’t see why it can’t be turned into a tourist attraction about the work of the Met in the future.

“It would be great PR.”