Rescued lions can stay in Strelley

By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter

Showjumper Reece Oliver also has ‘around 20 monkeys’ and ‘kangaroos’, as well as two African lions rescued from the Czech Republic and a Canadian puma, on land in Strelley.

Plans for his big cat enclosure were retrospectively approved in June last year, but alterations have been made to the enclosure, which Mr Oliver says are for ‘habitat enrichment and security’.

The meeting at Broxtowe Borough Council was technically to note the wording of a legal document, but the chairman of the meeting made clear all options were available to the council, including refusing permission for the enclosure altogether.

The enclosure was allowed to remain, with the vote passing narrowly, by seven votes to six.

Before the item was even discussed, Conservative councillor Philip Owen was asked to declare an interest in the item, because a formal complaint had been made about him by the applicant, Mr Oliver.

It transpired Councillor Owen had not been made aware of the complaint and only learned during the meeting when it was announced that the council’s legal team was investigating.

However, after learning of the complaint Councillor Owen did not declare an interest.

Several letters of support for the application were received and read out, including from the applicant himself, who said he saw the big cats ‘like his children’, and that they had exceptionally high standards of welfare.

He wrote: “These cats are and have been my life since day one. They mean a great deal to me and I do everything I can to make everything the best for them.

“I rescued them from a terrible situation and … the welfare and security of the animals is paramount, being at the same level as top zoos in the UK.

“We have an amazing bond and they look at me as if I was one of them.

“I think of them as my children. It would be no benefit to the cats to have them moved again as they are very happy and loved here in Strelley.

“In an ideal world we would not need to rescue animals, but the way the world is this is not possible.

“Even in their native country these beautiful creatures are trophy hunted.

“This has been a nightmare for the cats and I over the past 12 months. As of June last year, when the application was resolved, we believed this nightmare would be over and the animals’ lives would be secure here in Strelley village.

“Yet a minor issue which is now resolved has resulted in further time and attention being required.”

However one neighbour – Rosemary Walker – objected.

In a letter which was also read out, she said: “It is incumbent upon this local authority (Broxtowe) to be accurately informed of all activity past and present which poses significant danger and risk resulting from this enclosure and its purpose.

“Social and safety issues outlined here for your consideration include: Bridal path obstructions, frequent traffic, large vehicles, unlawful burning of muck heap within 10 metres of neighbour’s boundary, an increase in rats, flies and offensive odours etcetera.

“Site fires, burning of waste and animal waste in close proximity to neighbouring properties burning consistently over the years despite council intervention. Fires burning throughout lockdown causing health problems for nearby neighbours, coughs sore throats and headaches.

“The enclosure now houses at least 20 monkeys, kangaroos, male and female lions, and a puma, raising questions about the stables being used for equine purposes.”

Councillor Steve Carr represents Beeston North for the Liberal Democrats, and said: “I’ve heard several councillors say tonight that the villagers in Strelley are hugely worried and very concerned, yet I’m aware that that isn’t necessarily an entire view of the villagers of Strelley.

“I have to say the applicant seems to have been badly treated in this case, and some of the accusations are bordering on vexatious.”

Councillor Philip Owen represents the Nuthall East and Strelley ward for the Conservatives, and said: “It might have been a nightmare for the cats, but I think you will find for the vast majority of the residents in Strelley village it has been a nightmare for them as well, and I urge the committee not to support this application it should be rejected, it’s inappropriate development in the green belt.”

The virtual meeting of Broxtowe Borough Council’s Planning Committee approved the wording of the legal document by seven votes to six.

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