A DOG breeder's retrospective attempt to win planning permission for his business will be decided next week in the face of a wave of protest from animal rights campaigners.

More than 140 responses have been sent to planners to object to Eric Lancaster's application for backdated authorisation for a dog breeding facility at Newchurch-in-Pendle.

Opponents, who hope to collect a 20,000-signature petition against the business, allege that Mr Lancaster is running a 'puppy farm' in a former horse stable at Douglas Hall Cottage in Spenbrook Road.

But Mr Lancaster says the petition is based on 'lies' and insists 'truth always prevails'. He says licensed enterprises such as his help to keep the dog breeding industry regulated.

The business has a licence for 10 breeding bitches and operates on both a breeding and pet shop licence, and has a countrywide customer base.

On Thursday, at a meeting of Pendle's Barrowford and western parishes committee, councillors will discuss Mr Lancaster's part-retrospective application to change the use of and extend an equestrian building and also build an office with associated works.

The report says objections to the plan have been on the supposed grounds that the buildings would not provide adequate animal welfare conditions in terms of temperature regulation, lack of dog exercise facilities and general concerns relating to animal welfare.

Opponents also say there is a lack of staff rest facilities and of market demand.

But Mr Lancaster said: "The petition is based on lies. It's complete and utter nonsense.

"I would sign the petition if what is says was true, but it's null and void."

Mr Lancaster said insulation was in order and underfloor heating meant welfare fears were unfounded. He said annual and unannounced inspections had been passed.

He said the dogs had six acres in which to run and his set-up had veterinary approval.

He added: "It's people who do not have authority that seem to voice an opinion but the truth will out."

Mr Lancaster said he keeps puppies under constant supervision and looks after them well. He added that he deals with one UK licensed breeder.

The application is recommended for approval by planning officials, who acknowledge 'numerous concerns have been raised relating to animal welfare'.

However, a report to the committee adds: "The operation of the premises in terms of animal welfare is controlled by other legislation, such as licensing requirements.

"These matters are not material considerations in the determination of this planning application."

The report said: "There is a timber building to the east side of the site which was granted planning permission as a stable block in 2015. However, the building is currently in unauthorised use as a dog kennel.

"The application is for the retrospective use of the stable building as a dog breeding facility, extension of the building to its east side, doubling its size mirroring the existing building and an associated single-storey office building to the north."

Speaking after a demonstration last week outside Douglas Hall Farm, Louise Brown, the founder of Lancashire Against Puppy Farming, said: "It is the second time our group has demonstrated outside Douglas Hall Farm.

"Douglas Hall will not tell the customers where the dogs are coming from.

"When they say ‘UK licensed breeder’ they actually mean large-scale commercial breeders, which are often referred to as puppy farms. That is what we are trying to stop."

Mr Lancaster added he was encouraged by the recommendation for approval.