An animal charity which could be forced to close after Oldham Council rejected its plans for new kennels and a cattery have said they are "devastated".

Last month, Pennine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) had their application to convert a vacant stable block into kennels and to build a separate cattery on Green Belt land in Delph turned down.

The decision was made on the grounds that the development would be "inappropriate" in the Green Belt.

Now, PAWS has reacted to the application being turned down, saying the charity will now have to discuss their options.

The charity has also said that its planning consultant, Lewis Berry of MacMarshalls, made attempts to contact the council's planning officer in order to discuss and address specific areas of concern but "to no avail".

Michele Way, chair of trustees for PAWS, said: "Our planning consultant at MacMarshalls has diligently attempted to engage in a direct dialogue with the planning department and not once has this resulted in a phone call from them. 

"The whole future of our charity was pinned on gaining planning permission so we could start to achieve our long-term goal of a permanent home. 

The Oldham Times: The empty stables and shipping container on land in DelphThe empty stables and shipping container on land in Delph (Image: MacMarshalls Rural Chartered Surveyors and Planning Consultants)

"We are now going to have to reconsider our future and how we can continue to help cats and dogs in need in the communities we serve. 

"We will schedule a trustees’ meeting as soon as possible to discuss our options, following a full discussion with our consultants. 

"To say we are devastated is an understatement, there are no words to express our extreme disappointment with the council’s decision which, in our opinion, has been made without all the facts to hand."

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PAWS was set up in 2007 in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, by Sue Curran, who started fostering dogs in her home.

Since then, PAWS has rescued, rehomed and rehabilitated 1,500 cats and dogs in areas including Burnley, Halifax, Rochdale and, more recently, Saddleworth and Oldham.

In January 2022, the landlord issued PAWS with a notice ending their tenancy at their previous base, with the rescue service eventually moving out at the end of July last year.

Since then, PAWS has not been in operation, with animals currently in boarding kennels as it waits to be given planning permission.

The charity then purchased the land with an existing breezeblock building based off of Hill Top Lane and Badger Edge Lane in Saddleworth, seeking to make it their new home.

However, PAWS has now had two applications rejected by the council's planning department on the grounds that the development would not be appropriate in the Green Belt.

Ms Curran previously told The Oldham Times that if the application was rejected, then "it would be the end of PAWS, let's face it".

In response to Ms Way's comments, Cllr Elaine Taylor, Cabinet member for housing and licensing, said:  “Animal welfare is really important to us at the Council and I completely understand PAWS disappointment that their application was refused – but we have to treat all planning applications the same way.

“Unfortunately, given the Green Belt location of the site, the application had to be refused because it didn’t demonstrate the very special circumstances required to by national planning policy to permit development in the Green Belt.

‘This refusal follows a previous application of a similar nature from PAWS on the same site in the Green Belt, which was also refused planning permission for the same reason. 

"However, at that time officers advised PAWS’ agent that they could seek pre-application advice ahead of a fresh application.

"Even though the charity did not take up this opportunity for pre-application advice, the case officer was in contact with PAWS’ agent throughout the consideration of the new application, but once an application is submitted we can only assess the plans and information that they have provided and cannot provide that informal advice that a pre-application would have allowed.

"That said, I absolutely understand the importance of maintaining an animal rescue centre in the borough and I will be contacting the charity directly to see what more the Council can do to help them find a permanent solution in a different, more suitable location not in the Green Belt.”