THE son of a man who ran an illegal puppy farm in Walshaw has hit out at Bury Council after he was refused a pet shop licence.

Neil Speakman had applied to Bury Council to sell dogs at Bentley Hall Farm, the site of an illegal puppy farm which was raided by the RSPCA last year.

In September, Neil’s father Jeffery Speakman and brother Richard Speakman were banned from keeping dogs for 10 years after pleading guilty to 11 animal cruelty offences.

A court heard dogs were being kept in cramped, overcrowded and dirty conditions with many thirsty, in pain and suffering from untreated medical conditions.

After a lengthy debate at Bury Council’s licensing committee meeting last Thursday, from which members of the press and public were barred, all 12 councillors voted against granting the licence.

Cllr David Jones, the committee’s chairman, said: “Mr Speakman gave a comprehensive account of his plans and details of how he would ensure the safety of the puppies on the farm.

“He also said his father would have nothing to do with the business, but we felt the licence was a tactic to get round the magistrates’ banning order his father incurred in September.

“The father lives on the farm with him, and part of the order bans him from participating in any arrangement to contribute to a business of selling puppies.

“By allowing another business to take place on the farm, he would be doing this inherently – so on this basis we had to refuse it.”

Councillors were not allowed to hear objections in the meeting but members of the committee received e-mails in their hundreds from animal campaigners from across the country.

In May, a joint RSPCA and Greater Manchester Police raid seized 137 dogs from Bentley Hall Farm because of concerns for their safety.

Neil Speakman was not involved in the case so had no legal ban from keeping dogs at the premises, and after the meeting said he had spent more than £6,000 on readying the farm for a new pet shop.

He said: “It was a disappointing outcome. I think their minds were made up before they even started.

“I’m not my dad and I’m not my brother.

“But I think public perceptions before the hearing swayed the decision – that is what needs changing.

“People need to see this is something completely diffe-rent.

“This would not have been a puppy farm, somewhere where they breed dogs on the premises for cash, but a pet shop, where no dog breeding was going to occur.

“I think the decision was inevitable. It felt like I was fighting a losing battle.”