A woman living in London, UK, is embroiled in a council planning row and a dispute with complaining neighbours because she installed a modest sized cat enclosure for blind cats in her back garden (backyard). Her name is Josie Hitchens.
Josie looks after four blind and one deaf cat. She says that she has a learning difficulty and suffers from PTSD. Her cats are her therapy. She claims that the council is disinterested in her mental health.
“I have several therapy blind cats and they help me with my PTSD symptoms, but the council is not interested in this.”
She erected the catio in the garden of her ground floor apartment in 2012. A neighbour complained in November 2016. In fact we are told that there were complaints so more than one neighbour complained and I’ll assume that they contacted the local council. Subsequently a planning officer visited to inspect it with the intention of assessing if it breached planning regulations.
Although Josie says the free standing enclosure is not an extension of her apartment, Hackney Council have told her that the six-foot high structure requires planning permission.
“Hackney Council are saying it’s an extension, which it is not as far as I am concerned…It is not fixed to the wall. It does not touch the wall. I can poke a finger through it.
It does not take up more than 50 per cent of my garden and cannot be viewed by any other gardens – you would need to look over using a ladder or a roof terrace to see it.”
She’ll have to apply for planning permission retrospectively or she’ll have to remove it. It would be very sad to remove it. I would cautiously expect a planning application to be successful.
It is unusual for a person to care for four blind cats while living in a London apartment. This is a very built up area. The garden will be small. It looks like the catio takes up a good part of the garden.
Josie said that she does a lot of voluntary work with stray cats. Almost all her rescue cats have health issues. She feels that she is being targeted and is the victim of a hate campaign. Here is Josie’s comment:
This is my catio.
it has been in my garden since 2012. It used to house my g.pig and rabbit as a safe place for them to play during the day and at night allow my deaf cat boo to roam. she is geriatric now at 11 years old. There is nothing wrong with having blind cats – they are perfectly able to get around as well as seeing cats. it is very important their environment does not change, and they should be able to get the same entitlement as a seeing cat if I can provide it, as I have done.
The catio is held together with cable ties, can be moved around my garden, has no external or internal walls, no foundations, is not fixed to the floor or the wall of the property. It has no electrics, running water or roof (unless you count chicken wire as a roof). it takes up less than 50% of my garden (the angle of the pic is not good for that perspective)
It is just 1 neighbour that complained to the council about a “cat cage”. The council came to view it and they have determined it is a ground floor single story extension that I have “developed”. The council have already said in an email I will NOT get planning permission for this.
It is no different in its make up to the gazebo that sits above it.
This is part of an orchestrated campaign of hate against me by a few ill motivated individuals. It took the (1 neighbour) 4 years to complain about it. It then took a full year for the council to come around and view it and determine it as a “grounnd floor single story extension”.
The council have ignored my emails ALL WEEK. I did not go to the press lightly.
Thank you peeps!
Comment: She should have checked with the council about planning permission but I can fully understand the omission. She should apply immediately and argue her case. She may succeed. She seems to be reluctant to do this as she complains about the council ignoring her mental health which is not strictly relevant to this planning application.
UPDATE: Josie has visited the site and left comments. I have published it on this page (see above) to ensure that it is read.
I have a feeling that as the houses are on top of each other it is easy for a neighbour to hear the cats and if you don’t like cats they’ll object. She may have fended off complaints already and then someone notified the council because they did not get any satisfaction from Josie Hitchens. I have guessed the narrative but it is probably something like that.
The general mood from readers will be that the council are being harsh and I’d hope that an application made now would succeed bearing in mind the cat welfare aspect and the benefit to the cats’ guardian. Not everyone wants to adopt a blind or deaf cat. This lady is doing good and useful work.
Sources: Hackney Gazette and Evening Standard. Her flat is at Digby Crecent, Finsbury Park, London.