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A former police officer is facing a backlash from her neighbours after building an epic zoo-style 'big cat' enclosure for her domestic moggies.
Sue Haworth, 53, and husband Richard, 51, have spent £10,000 on the 9ft-high cage (they've dubbed it the 'catio'), which they've installed in their garden so that their four cats have a safe space to play.
Measuring 13ft by 11.5ft, the structure is accessed through a cat flap and features a number of ramps and frames that allow the pets to clamber to the top.
But while it sounds nothing short of absolutely incredible to me - and is no doubt a total haven for cats Chloe, Floyd, Freddie and Millie, whose ages range from 11 to 20 months old - neighbours have complained to the local council, saying the cage is an 'eyesore' and out of character for the area.
They also believe it impedes access to a narrow nearby lane and creates a blind spot for motorists.
Because of this, officials from Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire have ordered the couple to apply for retrospective planning permission - or take down the cage.
Their application to keep the cage was rejected last week, meaning Sue and Richard are now set to take their case to appeal.
Sue, a retired Northumbria police officer, believes the cage keeps the cats 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."
Sue and Richard, an electrician, moved into their end-of-terrace house in Huddersfield two years ago.
They also share the home with their four cats, three of which were rescued from Huddersfield Feral and Strays, a registered charity and one which was abandoned.
The couple say the neighbourhood has a couple of 'big bully cats' which prevent them from letting their pets out.
That inspired them to create a cage for them in the garden, which was completed in August last year.
However, a Kirklees Council official knocked on their door in January to tell them there was an issue, explaining that some complaints had been made and that the cage had to be taken down.
The Haworths made a retrospective planning application, but this was rejected on 18 July.
More than a dozen people came forward to dispute the application, with one saying: "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."
Some residents even set up a petition opposing the cage, which has been signed by more than 20 people.
However, thankfully not all locals have an issue with the structure, with one of the road's residents saying: "I am their neighbour and fully support them, it is not an eyesore and was built from the desire to keep their rescue cats safe.
"It's responsible pet ownership."
Now Sue and Richard have also set up their own petition in opposition to the backlash, which has received more than 6,000 electronic signatures.
The Haworths also say they are willing to work with the council to find a solution by either making it smaller or painting it a different colour.
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."
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