£6.5 million guide dog training centre in Atherton facing the axe
A £6.5 million state-of-the-art guide dog training centre opened in Atherton only five years ago is facing the threat of closure.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association plans to merge its puppy training schools and community-based mobility teams in “new specially-designed facilities”.
No decision has yet been made on what this means for the school in Gibfield Park Avenue, Atherton, which was officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in 2010, but the association did not rule out it ultimately being shut.
A spokesman said any changes will be made “gradually” and that no locations had been decided on.
They vowed to consult with affected staff throughout the process and said they understood that “staff would have concerns”.
The changes come after the Guide Dogs association conducted a two-year survey on their operations.
Currently, puppies go to training schools after initially spending time with a family, before being handed to the mobility teams to be gradually introduced to the blind person they will live with.
A Guide Dogs spokesman said: “We are determined to reach more people with sight loss and help them get out and about on their own terms.
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“A detailed two-year study, which included input from our frontline staff, has shown us that bringing the different stages of guide dog training closer together would benefit the people we serve because we could train even more life-changing guide dog partnerships.
“There are also a number of other advantages, including welfare benefits for our dogs and opportunities for our staff and volunteers to be part of the whole training journey.
”Over a number of years we will bring our guide dog training schools and community-based mobility teams together in new specially designed facilit-ies.
“We understand that some of our staff have concerns about these plans, but the changes will be made gradually.
“No decisions have been taken at this time as to possible future locations and we will involve all affected staff in every part of the process.”
The Atherton centre first became operational in 2009 when it replaced the 50-year-old Heaton training school at Nuffield House in Lowndes Street.
Guide Dogs launched a £650,000 funding appeal to help them pay for new facilities and equipment, with the Atherton location enabling the charity to train 85 more dogs a year than was possible at Nuffield House. The charity currently runs four training schools in the UK.
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