CAT OWNERS living on a North West housing estate claim they have been told to either get rid of their beloved companions or face eviction from their flats.
By NICK MAYS
Residents of Fir Court on Kennedy Avenue, Macclesfield say they have been told tenants who keep animals will be facing court action if they do not give up their pets, even though some have owned them for up to 20 years.
While it clearly states ‘no pets’ in the Arcon Housing Trust tenancy agreement, residents claim the landlords have always turned a blind eye to those who have them at the Upton Priory complex.
However, since renovation work was carried out on the 25-year-old properties in the summer, the company has launched a clampdown that has shocked the cat loving tenants, resulting in two already moving away from their homes.
Ten-year-old Kyron Lehnert, a pupil at local Broken Cross Primary School, who has emotional and behavioural difficulties, doesn’t even know that his ‘best friend’ Billy, a seven-year-old tabby, could be taken away from him.
His mum, Inge Lehnert, who has had cats for seven years, said: ‘Kyron and Billy share the same bed and he is so attached to the cat, you can’t have one without the other.’
‘I am very concerned about Kyron because he doesn’t understand when I say mummy might have to get rid of Billy. I’m going to fight this and go to court – I can’t move because I’ve got nowhere else to go.’
‘I received the letter notifying us a few weeks ago and when I did I wasn’t very happy.’
Kyron’s grandmother, Margaret Lehnert, added: ‘I think it’s stupid. These cats are not doing any harm. They are a lot cleaner than dogs, so what is wrong with people keeping them as companions or as a comfort? We live in a funny world today.’
Lynn Carty, who has lived and had cats in her flat for 20 years, claims she has simply had to move because of her four-year-old tabbies – Smoky and Jacky.
She said: ‘I don’t have kids and live on my own so my cats are my babies. Some things are more important than where you live, like my moggies, and I’m not leaving them.’
‘Ten years ago I had damp and someone came round from Arcon and he knew I had cats and said as far as I’m concerned, you can keep ten animals.’
The children’s home assistant collected a 30 signature petition to keep the felines, and even asked if she could keep her cats indoors – an offer refused by Arcon.
Val Bradley, a resident who is not even a cat owner, thinks what the trust has done is ‘disgusting.’
She said: ‘I have very bad depression and Smoky comes and visits me and makes me feel better – I will be sad when he goes.’
But it is not only residents of Fir Court that are disgusted as cat-lover Cindy Glover, of the Macclesfield Animal Rescue Centre, thinks it’s ‘petty.’
She said: ‘If they have turned a blind eye before then they know they are going to break someone’s heart – it’s going to be such a wrench for those poor residents. What harm are these cats doing to other residents?’
When asked about the possible evictions, Arcon Housing Trust declined to comment but a spokeswoman did confirm that they have always operated a no animals policy.
However, after extensive publicity in the leading local newspaper the Macclesfield Express, Arcon Housing Association announced last month that they were thinking of backing down after the Express intervened.
Other local landlords Johnnie Johnson Housing Association and Cheshire Peaks and Plains (CPP) said they would have allowed the residents to keep their cats as long as they did not replace them once their pets had died.
Emma Marsh, CPP head of housing, said: ‘In this situation our trust would say ‘if you have pets don’t replace them’.’
In response to this, David Lovelady, Arcon housing director, said: ‘I haven’t got the right to change the rules myself, but we have taken on board what has been said, and the matter will put it to the next meeting of our housing management committee.
‘I will get copies of the other housing associations’ tenancy agreements so we can learn from them.’
The cat owners greeted the news with relief. Inge Lehnert said: ‘This is great news. Billy and Kyron are inseparable and I have nowhere else to go so I hope they do change their minds.’
David Lovelady, added: ‘We understand that once you get a pet you can become quite attached to it but they are still in breach of the rules and we have to uphold the interests of all our Fir Court residents – we don’t want to evict anyone.