Woman builds 10k 'zoo-style' enclosure for her cats

A woman who built a zoo-style “big cat” enclosure for her domestic felines faces a planning battle after neighbours demanded it is torn down.

Former police officer Sue Haworth, 53, and her husband Richard, 51, spent £10,000 on the 9ft-high cage in their garden in Huddersfield so their four “fur babies” had a safe space to play.

The 13ft by 11.5ft cage is accessed through a cat-flap and features a number of ramps and frames which enables the pets to climb to the top.

But neighbours have described the structure - dubbed the 'catio' - as an eyesore and complained to the local council.

They claim it is out of character, impedes access to a narrow nearby lane and creates a blind spot for motorists.

Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire has ordered the couple to apply for retrospective planning permission or take the cage down.

Their application for it to remain was rejected last week and they are now set to take their case to appeal.

Mrs Haworth, a retired Northumbria police officer, claims the cage keeps pets Chloe, Floyd, Freddie and Millie, whose ages range from 20 months to 11 months old, away from harm.

She said: "The cage is designed as a place for our cats to play in safely. It keeps them away from the road. And there are a couple of bully cats in the area that my cats wouldn't be able to defend themselves against.

"We didn't do it on the cheap. We paid over the odds for our house so that we could do what we've done without affecting anybody else.

"We don't want to upset anyone, we just want to live a quiet life and for our cats to be happy. They really love the space, there are lots of things for them to play with.

"Most of our neighbours think the cage is a great idea, there are just a few who have a problem with it. We are willing to work with the council to find a resolution but they don't want to listen."

The couple moved into the end-of-terrace house in Huddersfield two years ago. They have four cats, including three from Huddersfield Feral and Strays, a registered charity, and other that was abandoned.

The structure was completed in August last year. In January, they were told by the council that complaints had been made, so they submitted a retrospective planning application that was rejected on July 18.

More than a dozen critics of the cage made representations against the application.

One person said: "It can be seen from a distance and is an extremely dark and ugly object."

Another added: "The construction is completely out of character with the whole terrace."

Someone else said: "Both I and my husband feel that the cat cage is an eyesore and somewhat devalues other houses in the terrace."

Residents opposing the cage set up a petition which has been signed by more than 20 people. In response, the couple set up their own online petition, which has more than 6,000 electronic signatures.

A Kirklees Council spokesman said: "The council investigated the matter and found a cat cage had been erected in the front garden of the property, requiring planning permission.

"The owners did apply for planning permission which members of the Huddersfield Sub Planning Committee refused. However, the owners do have the right of appeal to the planning inspector against the council’s decision."