A VISITOR attraction near Andover has asked for planning permission to extend its hospital for birds of prey.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust has submitted plans to Test Valley Borough Council to increase the size of the hospital in order to “comply with current legislation” which states that wild birds should be treated in a separate area.

The hospital treats birds at the park, in Weyhill, along with those brought in by the public.

Its application states: “To provide compliant facilities, it is necessary to provide additional and separate accommodation.

“The practical and most economical solution is to extend the existing building.

“The extension is positioned to give easy access from the parking area and to avoid bringing wild birds into the park.”

The bird of prey hospital was granted planning permission 20 years ago in 1999, when Test Valley Borough Council approved plans for the hospital along with vet accommodation above.

The Trust is a registered charity and the park has 22 acres of grounds including woodland and a wildflower meadow.

It cares for more than 130 birds of prey from owls to eagles, and its purpose-build National Bird of Prey Hospital is where sick, injured or orphaned raptors are cared for.

Visitors can view the ongoing rehabilitation work during their time at the park.

The Hawk Conservancy Trust was founded by Reg Smith, the son of a butcher, born and bred in Andover, whose lifetime ambition was to become a farmer.

In 1952, with the help of his father, Tom, he bought Sarson Farm which later became the site of the Hawk Conservancy Trust following an appearance on BBC’s Blue Peter in the early 1960s.

Reg and his wife Hilary took an albino badger onto the show, which prompted hundreds of people to visit the farm.

The couple decided to sell part of the farm to raise money to open a zoo, and in 1966 Weyhill Zoo was founded, specialising in European wildlife including wolves, bears and birds of prey.

Reg and Hilary’s youngest son, Ashley, trained some of the birds before demonstrating their first public flying display in 1975 which was a huge success.

In 1980 the family decided to specialise in one group of species and changed the name of the park to The Hawk Conservancy.