A £6.5 million state-of-the-art guide dog training centre opened in Atherton only five years ago is facing the threat of closure.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association plans to merge its puppy training schools and community-based mobility teams in “new specially-designed facilities”.

No decision has yet been made on what this means for the school in Gibfield Park Avenue, Atherton, which was officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in 2010, but the association did not rule out it ultimately being shut.

A spokesman said any changes will be made “gradually” and that no locations had been decided on.

They vowed to consult with affected staff throughout the process and said they understood that “staff would have concerns”.

The changes come after the Guide Dogs association conducted a two-year survey on their operations.

Currently, puppies go to training schools after initially spending time with a family, before being handed to the mobility teams to be gradually introduced to the blind person they will live with.

A Guide Dogs spokesman said: “We are determined to reach more people with sight loss and help them get out and about on their own terms.