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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.

Archant

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.


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