By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter
The founder of a cat cafe in Pimlico believes she has found the purrfect way to help alleviate loneliness.
Geologist Florence Heath asked people to help get Maison du Chat cafe off the ground through a Crowdfunding campaign
She told backers: “The therapeutic effect of cats is being increasingly documented and we hope our cats would help alleviate loneliness for some of our elderly neighbours.
“We would also like to run a project with a post traumatic stress disorder charity and also a local project with autistic children to use the cats as pets therapy.”
Ms Heath lived in Libya, Siberia and the Netherlands during her career in the oil industry.
She set up pet rescue charity RANA – Rescue Animals of North Africa – with a friend in 2013 and it has re-homed several hundred cats in the UK.
And she aims to bring rescue cats to the cafe and introduce them to people who might like to adopt them.
The UK’s first cat cafe opened in Shoreditch in 2014 and more sprang up including a cafe in Holloway Road in north London.
Ms Heath’s application to convert a former estate agents office in Pimlico was approved by Westminster City Council’s planning committee.
The shop has stood empty for nearly two years in the street which has a mix of shops and homes.
When the plan was first submitted there were 23 objections, with some worries about noise and disturbance from a very small outdoor seating area, which has now been dropped.
Others said they thought there were too many cafes in the area.
And 19 people wrote in to support the café, in Moreton Street.
It aims to promote people’s mental health and well-being with seven to 10 cats on site.
The felines will be able to roam around the cafe with supervision and will be there for three to four weeks – and can be adopted.
Food will be made off-site and heated up at the café, and it will also sell pet food and accessories.
Ms Heath also wants to hold coffee mornings for elderly people and mother and toddler groups in a function room.
“The aim is to act as a social community hub.
“We think it will be a unique use in this part of Moreton Street,” said planning officer David Dorward.
“This really is a novel use of a property,” added committee vice chair Robert Rigby.
And Councillor Elizabeth Hitchcock said: “It is welcomed in difficult trading conditions to try something different and stand out from the crowd.”
One resident who supported the scheme said: “interaction between pets and humans can be educational and fun”.
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.