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Guide Dogs for Blind to be kicked out by HS2

PUBLISHED: 10:17 30 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 30 March 2017

Laura Skinner and Nan.   Picture: Tony Gay

Laura Skinner and Nan. Picture: Tony Gay

TONY GAY at tonephote@aol.com

The training centre for guide dogs will be forced to move so HS2 can expand Euston station.

Laura Skinner, guide dog Nan, Zoe AirdLaura Skinner, guide dog Nan, Zoe Aird

The Guide Dogs for the Blind centre in Melton Street is “in the footprint” of the high-speed rail development and will be taken from the charity most likely this year, the Ham&High has learned.

The centre, based at Walkden House, is the only place in London where the animals – which help blind and partially sighted people navigate the streets – are taught essential skills like pushing buttons at pedestrian crossings and riding on escalators.

In a previous interview with the Ham&High, team manager Mike Woolston said the location was “perfect” because there is so much noise, traffic and commotion to help the dogs get accustomed to life in the capital. He said: “They can’t go out in the leafy suburbs because that’s not where they are going to be working.” Now the charity is searching for another spot that replicates those conditions.

Mr Woolston said: “As you can imagine, it’s quite a challenge to find the right balance of somewhere that provides the busy training environment our guide dogs need, still gives us good service reach across the capital, is accessible, and likely to attract the volunteers so essential to our work.”

He added that the new centre must be also accessible to boarders – volunteers who take the animals home when they aren’t on their 9am-5pm training shifts.

Because no compulsory purchase order has yet been submitted, and because discussions are ongoing with HS2, Mr Woolston could not comment further – but did say there is a plan to hold a drop-in session for those who have concerns about the future.

A spokesman for HS2, meanwhile, said the railway network has already spoken with the guide dogs charity and promised to give “as much as possible” before the building is taken. He added that HS2 has offered to provide “information and guidance” on finding “alternative local premises”.

He went on: “The arrival of HS2 will transform Euston station – providing much-needed extra capacity for passengers as well as providing the opportunity for new homes, offices and retail space.

“We recognise that construction will take time and cause inevitable disruption for the community and local businesses. That’s why we’ve been engaging with the community since the plans were first published.”

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