ONE of Hampshire's oldest animal rescue centre's is pleading for public support, as it fears the council's local plan will 'squeeze them out of existence'.

Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition to save St Francis Animal Welfare in Fair Oak, before the council's local plan to build thousands of homes east of Bishopstoke goes ahead, which would see houses built right up to the border of the rescue centre.

The 62-year-old rescue centre cares for, rehabilitates and re-homes over 100 domestic animals who will no longer be cared for by their owners, and their 'no kill policy' means that they permanently home a number of elderly and sick animals that no other shelter in the area will look after.

However, if the local plan is carried out and greenspace is restricted, the older, more vulnerable animals would likely have to be put down, which is "a tragedy for the staff who have looked after them for years".

Annette Lodge, chair of trustees at the charity said: "We've been serving the local community and its animals for over sixty years and are desperate to continue.

"We don’t know what our future is. The shelter is noisy. People don’t want to live next to us and we fear we’ll be asked to move out but we were here first. The same thing happened 30 years ago when we had to relocate from our Horton Heath centre due to excessive complaints from people living in the houses that were developed right next to us."

She added: "The idea of building houses right up to our boundaries is ridiculous. The council won't listen to us, they're trying to squeeze us out of existence! All we can do now is show them just how much local support we have."

The shelter is home to dogs, cats, chickens, reptiles and more, as well as a an ill donkey called Muffin, who if forced to be out down, would cause "local outcry as everyone knows and loves her".

In just a week, support from the local community has flooded in with almost 5,000 signing the online petition to save the welfare centre.

Meanwhile representatives from Eastleigh's 'Action Against Destructive Development' are planning to put forward the case as part of their objections to the local plan at the planning inspector's hearing on Friday November 22.

Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, Keith House said: "The Council has been through four full public consultations on the Local Plan, which looks at meeting housing and community needs over the next 20 years.

"It is not a planning application for development.

"The Government has appointed a planning inspector to consider all of the issues and objections to the local plan and that is the next forum for discussion of these issues.”