A sanctuary for horses and ponies claims delays over a lease extension is preventing vital funding opportunities that threaten its survival.
Charity Shy Lowen put forward its request for an extension to Sefton Council after nearly 3000 people signed an online petition supporting their attempts to secure an agreement over land rental at the Netherton site where they have been located for the past 21-years.
The sanctuary says uncertainty over its future means donors have been discouraged from donating after the first lease on an eight-acre piece of land in Buckley Hill Lane ended last August.
Bernadette Langfield, Shy Lowen’s founder and manager, said: “We spent over three years trying to negotiate with Sefton Council, who are the land owners, to give us a longer lease because we can’t get any funding.
“That’s been even more difficult through the Covid-19 situation because you need to able to prove longevity to funders. You need to be able to say ‘we’ll be here’, but right now we don’t know ourselves if we’ll be here.”
The charity carries out socialisation programmes with horses and ponies who are deemed to be dangerous for the public and provides equine assisted therapy to people facing social and health challenges. This usually involves helping students and war veterans, including Ken Higgins, who served in the British Army for 12 years and has met a close companion at the sanctuary.
He said: “When I came here they told me that the horse would choose me, which made no sense to me. I came up to Issi and gave her a scratch and then I went away to look another horse and she just went mad.
“There’s a strange kind of love. They pick up on your moves. If you’re happy, they’re happy. As soon as I come up to her, she’s there for me.”
Shy Lowen launched an online petition in early November to get Sefton Council to hear their case. The council discussed the charity’s motion last Thursday after 2894 people signed the petition.
Cllr Paulette Lappin said: “We actually have been working with Shy Lowen for over a year and we value their work intensely. In the first instance, they came to us asking us to give them the land and it’s our policy not to give away Sefton’s residents land, but to make sure that we have leases.
“We had a proposed building arraignment and lease in November 2019 in line with council policy. Now, there has been a delay, but as we know there’s this thing called a pandemic which has potentially delayed some of these things.”
Sefton Council backed a proposal to continue negotiations with Shy Lowen, potentially making substantial progress by the end of the year. Cllr Bob McCann also suggested to bring in some elements from the Community Transition fund to assist with the Charity’s projects.