A DESPERATE young Skipton mother and father are pleading to be rehoused - so that their blind 11-month-old daughter can grow up in a safe environment.

Tiny Amelia Riley is at a crucial stage in her life - as are all babies of her age - when she is starting to make sense of the world around her.

But her parents, Natasha Purdie and Collin Riley, fear that their rented home, in Milton Street, Skipton, cannot give Amelia the outside safe space which she is now starting to need.

Natasha, 23, who worked as a sales administrator for Mercedes Benz, said: "The next 12 months are absolutely vital in her development. Children gradually learn to make sense of the world around them, but all Amelia is getting is the four walls around her. She needs safe space to learn, but we haven't got it here - there is only the uneven paved yard at the back and there's steep steps down from the house. It will always be too dangerous to put her out in."

The couple have applied to North Yorkshire Homechoice, the organisation which allocates council homes for rent throughout the county, for another house in Skipton with level outside space which would be more suitable for Amelia.

But, they say, despite providing "evidence of disability" from specialist consultants and health workers, they have been "constantly knocked back".

Natasha, who is pregnant with their second child and herself an epileptic, explained: "Homechoice operates a banding system to assess housing need - 'emergency', 'gold', 'silver' and 'bronze'. Despite all the evidence we have given them they categorised us as 'silver', which has put us right down the order. We seem to have very little chance unless they put us in 'gold."

One of the criteria in the gold section is "applicants with a serious and enduring illness whose health and/or well-being is significantly compromised by their home or environment". Natasha said that she believes this applies directly to their situation.

She said: "What it boils down to is that we need a safe environment in which Amelia can learn, and this house just is not that. We have jumped through every hoop and now we're being forced to jump higher. The Homechoice Lettings Board seem to have washed their hands of us. It just goes on and on - they don't look at the issues in individual cases.

"Basically Amelia is trapped inside these four walls. It seems to us that we are being punished because our daughter can't see. We have appealed against the latest decision, but it all takes time, and at this stage of her development, time is not what we have got."

Amelia's grandmother, Belinda Riley, added that she believed the fact that their application had gone to North Yorkshire Homechoice chiefs and were then referred back to housing officials at Craven District Council had not helped.

"Basically, we need action now, but we seem to be getting lost in bureaucracy. If it was something like wheelchair access we needed, it would get done straight away. But Amelia's situation is very urgent. She will never be able to get back the next 12 months, which are so vital for her."

Craven District Council's environmental health and housing services manager, Wyn Ashton, said: "Ms Purdie is currently appealing and we cannot comment while that process is underway."