Luxury cat enclosure for blind and deaf felines in Finsbury Park caught in planning permission row

PUBLISHED: 13:30 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02 22 November 2017

The catio has been deemed an extension and will have to be torn down.

The catio has been deemed an extension and will have to be torn down.


A Finsbury Park woman faces a race against the clock to save a large sanctuary for her blind cats – after Hackney Council ordered her to tear it down.

The catio has been deemed an extension and will have to be torn down. The catio has been deemed an extension and will have to be torn down.

Two weeks ago, the council told Josie Hitchens she had one month to either get rid of the “catio” in Digby Crescent or apply for planning permission – otherwise, it would have to “consider using its enforcement powers”.

The standalone structure is three feet wide and six feet high and is used by Josie’s five cats. Four are blind and one is deaf.

“This catio serves to give my blind cats access to the outside and to enrich their environment,” Josie said.

“This is beyond distressing for me, as I have a learning difficulty and complex PTSD with a limited income.

“I have several therapy blind cats and they help me with my PTSD symptoms, but the council is not interested in this.”

Josie erected the catio in the garden of her ground-floor flat in 2012. But after a neighbour complained about it in November last year, and a planning officer visited her flat in August, she was told to remove it, get planning permission, or present proof of an existing permit.

She said: “Hackney Council are saying it’s an extension, which it is not as far as I am concerned.

"I do a lot of voluntary work with stray cats and almost all my cats have health issues"

Josie Hitchens

“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.”

Josie originally bought the catio for her rabbit and guinea pig to give them freedom from their cages during the day.

The guinea pig and rabbit have since died, but plenty of cats still make use of the animal palace.

“I do a lot of voluntary work with stray cats and almost all my cats have health issues,” she said. “It is imperative they get fresh air. I feel like I’m being targeted. I’m a victim of a hate campaign.”

Hackney Council had not responded to requests for comment as the Gazette went to press.

Related articles

Latest Hackney Stories


Read Layth Yousif’s World Cup blog after England’s stunning, sublime – and quite frankly unbelievable – 6-1 victory over Panama which has got the country dreaming...

Yesterday, 12:45

Middlesex head coach Richard Scott paid tribute to his side following their thrilling one-wicket win at Leicestershire.

Yesterday, 12:00

Which one of these four players is England’s greatest right midfielder of all time?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

An unbeaten half-century from James Harris saw visitors Middlesex complete an outstanding recovery to beat Leicestershire by one wicket in a marvellously tense finish to their Specsavers Division Two county championship match at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Belgium and Tunisia have met on three previous occasions in all competitions, with a win apiece and a draw. The encounters have been tight affairs, with victories decided by one-goal margins, but today’s match didn’t follow the same trend.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Gareth Southgate’s promising young England side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the disappointments of recent tournaments.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The drama surrounding the threat to Gillett Square continues apace with over 1,500 new signatories in the past month to the petition to Save Gillett Square, writes Adam Hart FRSA, chief executive officer Hackney Co-operative Developments (HCD) 1996-2012, co-director Vortex Foundation, resident and parent for over 35 years.

The temperature nudged the mercury towards nearly 30c as the man sat down on a bench, sited between Grace Road’s evocative pavilion and the sight screen.


To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists