OVER 6000 people have now publicly supported St Francis Animal Welfare, after another 1000 people have signed the petition in the last 24 hours.

The Eastleigh community has united in support of 'one of the oldest animal shelters in Hampshire', after it was announced that the Council's local plan will place it under severe threat.

Staff, trustees and the public alike were 'desperate' for the 62-year-old shelter to remain open, so a petition was created, currently with over 6000 signatures.

Annette Lodge, chair of trustees at the Welfare Centre, said: "I've spoken with Helen our manager: all the shelter staff, volunteers and supporters and they are all absolutely thrilled with the level of community support we're getting since the profile of our problem was raised. We're so grateful to everyone who's supporting us by signing and sharing our petition, and to see all the lovely comments.

She added: "We're really touched by just how many people in the community care about the shelter's animals and clearly want to see us continue long into the future. It's heartening to have the public on our side. We fully intend on staying put and fighting. We won't stop campaigning until the issue is resolved."

This comes after the Eastleigh Borough Council's local plan, intends to build thousands of homes and a large transport link right up to the border of the welfare centre.

Having little access to green space for the animals, and likely getting noise complaints from future neighbours, would force the shelter to relocate or close, meaning many of the animals would have to be put down.

This issue is set to be raised further when representatives from ADD plan to put forward the case to a planning inspector at the examination meetings starting on Thursday November 21.

Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said: "The Local Plan is with the Planning Inspector ahead of the Inquiry and as such is now out of the Council’s hands. The Inspector will not consider a petition.

"When the Local Plan is endorsed by the Inspector, any planning application for development will have to give regard to site issues including neighbouring land uses. The Council will respond to these as part of its planning role at the time including by consideration alongside the Master Plan that will be developed over the next two years. There is no Master Plan at this stage, so the speculation around St Francis’ is, at the moment, just speculation and is creating needless worry. At multiple points, there will be opportunities for the charity, supporters and neighbours to be involved and this is the best place for the charity’s concerns to be considered."

In view of the recent support, St Francis contacted parliamentary candidates for the upcoming general election in Eastleigh for their thoughts and received messages of support from Sam Jordan, the Labour candidate, and Paul Holmes for the Conservatives, who both support development in a different area.