A couple who built a giant jungle gym in their front garden for their ten cats says they are “heartbroken” it may have to be demolished.
Lorraine and Adrian Marshall spent £1,500 building the 8ft structure from chicken wire and wood in June after losing three pets in road accidents outside their home.
But the Blackpool couple may be forced to tear down the vast 8ft structure, which features rope ladders, tunnels and scratching posts – because they didn’t seek planning permission.
They were visited by a planning enforcement officer earlier this month who told them that they’d received a complaint and must retrospectively apply.
Blackpool Gazette / SWNS)
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Lorraine, 42, said: “I was heartbroken. How can I tell the cats that they can’t use it? It’s soul-destroying.
”We spent so much time on it, and the cats love it. If it has to come down, it will devastate us – I just don’t know what I will do.
“The cars fly down here, and it’s a really busy street. I can’t let the cats out on the road.
”I’d have to keep them in and that, to me, is cruel after we’ve let them out in this space. It’s not healthy for them. They need fresh air.”
The cat-loving couple lost their first moggie, one-year-old Charlie, to a speeding car outside their home in 2006. In 2014, 14-year-old Alfie was also mowed down, and four-year-old Phoebe was sadly killed in October 2020.
Another cat, 20-year-old Winston, was hit by a car in 2017, but survived.
Blackpool Gazette / SWNS)
“We raised Phoebe from a kitten, and we had only just started letting her out. Five minutes later, the man over the road was knocking on our door, and she had been killed outright. There was blood everywhere,” Lorraine said.
“That was the worst for us, because we were there when she was born. We brought her into the world. I couldn’t take it any more. I thought OK, enough is enough.”
Lorraine and Adrian, 60, hired a landscape gardener to build the catio, which was inspired by the Jungle Jim’s play area at Blackpool Tower.
The structure, which is made of wood and chicken wire, allows cats Winston, Molly, Ollie, Peanut, Freddy, Mia, Toby, George, Chester and Kevin to play without fear of being hit by cars or picked up by opportunistic cat-nappers.
“We didn’t think we had to do a planning application because it’s not a permanent structure and it’s not an extension of our house,” Lorrain said.
“I said I was sorry and that I would apply for permission, but the planning enforcement officer said they were going to knock it down anyway.
“He didn’t give us a reason why. He just said they had received a complaint about it, and that we should’ve put in a planning application.”
Husband Adrian added: “I designed the catio. I remember 20 years ago I was in Blackpool Tower with my son at a party at Jungle Jim’s, and I went in and thought ‘what a place!’. It was inspired by that.
“The cats love it. Come 6 or 7pm when the outdoor lights come on and the flies are buzzing around, the cats are all over it. People stop and take pictures.
”We must go out twice a day to people who say how amazing it is. There’s a lot of care and dedication put into it.
“Our lives are our cats. We’re happy in our own little world we have with our cats, and we don’t bother anybody.
“I think it’s a very unfair situation. We’re not harming anybody. This house is bought and paid for, and I have lived here since 1994. I have owned two Post Offices in Blackpool. I’ve served the community for 30 years.
”Now some person from the council who hasn’t got a clue comes around and says I’m not allowed to build something in my own garden – I really find it disgusting.”
The couple have set up an online petition calling for support as they hope to prevent the catio being torn down, and have racked up more than 800 signatures.
Lorraine, a mum of three, said: “The cats mean everything to us. All our children are grown-up and have left home, so the cats are like our babies. We love them, and they are spoilt.
”They have chicken every day, tuna three times a week, they get the best cat food possible.
“Ever since this man came around telling us they are going to have to tear (the catio) down, I have been heartbroken.
”How will the cats understand why they’re suddenly not allowed to go outside? It will devastate them.”
According to Blackpool Council, planning permission is necessary for a wide range of developments including extensions and minor alterations to some buildings.
However, some minor alterations and extensions can often be carried out without the need for planning permission. These are known as permitted developments.
Examples of permitted developments include small rear extensions, small porches, minor changes of use such as loft, garage and basement conversions, internal alterations such as knocking down inside walls, installing solar panel, satellite dishes and antennas, and adding roof or dormer windows.
Developments which require planning permission include large extensions to residential properties, extensions to industrial and warehousing premises, shops and offices, conversion of buildings from office to residential uses, changes to the uses of shops, offices and agricultural buildings, school conversions, and telecom installations in conservation areas.
A council spokesman said: “We have visited and spoken to the Mr and Mrs Marshall. We advised that the structure built in the front garden does require planning permission and this can be applied for retrospectively.
“We have also said that we would be happy to meet the owners again at the property to see if there is a suitable alternative.”