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Hearing Dogs face planning blow

A LEADING assistance dog charity has run into trouble over extension plans for its base.

Proposals by Hearing Dogs for the Deaf to convert its premises at Cliffe, near Selby, are set for rejection by district councillors.

The charity has a two-year waiting list for its dogs, the majority of which are rescued animals, and is looking for a bigger base from which to train them.

Its training centre, Top End House, in Hull Road, Cliffe, East Yorkshire is a listed building and charity spokeswoman Jenny Moir said the group had outgrown its current home.

"We've seen huge growth in demand for the dogs across the UK as we get better known," said Ms Moir. "We want to stay reasonably close by – this area is ideal for us and we've built up a network of socialisers and volunteers. It's great being in this area because people have been so helpful and supportive."

She added that the charity wanted to be able to train more dogs and help more people.
"A two-year waiting list is not acceptable from our point of view and we want to take more dogs that have been rescued," said Ms Moir.

The charity is seeking planning consent for seven homes on the site – Top End House would be one, while the office building next door would be converted to four more dwellings. The existing kennel block would be converted into two homes.

Top End House dates from the late 18th century and was originally a coaching inn before its conversion to a house. It has been altered and extended throughout its history.

Cliffe Parish Council has objected to the proposed conversion of the kennels into housing, although it does not object to residential use of Top End House or the offices.

It raised concerns about the risk of flooding of the kennels area and also about increased car use on the site, points also raised by villagers who have written eight letters of objection to Selby Council.

Top End House lies within the village's development limits but the kennels block does not and planning policy says such buildings outside development limits should only be converted to residential use if commercial use is not viable.

On those grounds, district planning officials are recommending that permission is refused because Hearing Dogs for the Deaf has not proved that there is no demand for use of the kennel block for business use.

The Cliffe centre opened in 1994 and since then has placed more than 400 hearing dogs with deaf people in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The charity also has a southern base, in Buckinghamshire and since it was founded in 1982 has placed more than 1,000 hearing dogs.

The charity’s plans for Top End House were due to go before Selby Council's planning committee this Wednesday.

The charity trains the animals to respond to specific sounds, so they can alert their owners by touch, and lead them to the source of the sound, such as a doorbell. For sounds such as a smoke alarm, the dog lies down to indicate danger.

The dogs are given free to hearing-impaired people and, when started as a puppy, take just over a year to train. At present the group has one dog finishing training and being placed each month.