A couple who were told they were being evicted from their home by Bolton Council have insisted they’re not leaving – and have even taken in dozens of cats who escaped the war in Ukraine for the next three months.
David and Karen Yates’ family have tended the land at Earls Farm in Hardwood for more than 300 years, and David took over tenancy when his father, William, died in 1995. The pair say they have not been paying any rent since 2007, after they say they were promised a new tenancy contract from the council which never materialized, and were recently advised to take ‘adverse possession’ of the land – also known as squatters rights – and made an application to Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR).
But following the application, the couple were issued with an eviction notice from the council – within which they were told the local authority would ‘strenuously defend’ the application and that they had to leave the land by April 30.
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However, the pair have no plans to leave. On top of it being their home, David, 65, and Karen, 54, have also established an 84-animal cattery, an innovative manufacturing hub for making barley straw which kills green algae, a facility for ‘Men in Sheds’ – the men’s mental health charity – and a beauty and nail treatment business there.
And the pair say they will continue to run their businesses despite the threat of eviction hanging over them – and even have some slightly unusual guests coming to stay with them later this week. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) contacted Karen recently, asking if the pair would be able to house cats that had been brought to the UK from Ukraine.
Instantly the pair agreed, wanting to help with the desperate situation faced by Ukrainians fleeing the country, and giving their beloved pets a place to stay whilst they completed the UK’s mandatory quarantine period. The cats will be housed in Bolton for three months before they’re clear of the quarantine requirement and are able to go on to be reunited with their owners
Karen said: “DEFRA contacted us about two weeks ago to ask if we would consider taking cats in from Ukraine and we said yes, we wanted to help as much as we could. We received a phone call and an inspection over a video call because they couldn’t get up to see us in person and said we’d be happy to allocate a full unit of chalets because I know they’re really under pressure to move cats forward so they can bring more cats over.
“The lady I spoke to said they really needed to push forward and was really happy with the cattery. We do daily observations on all the cats we look after but because the cats from Ukraine are in quarantine DEFRA want us to watch them more closely.
“I’m really pleased that we’re able to help, the situation is really desperate and I’m very relieved we’re able to help. It’s nice to be able to have everything ready and just push the button for them and show off the unit and our food stores and everything we have at the cattery.
“They have said that cats could start arriving as soon as Thursday but everything’s ready for them. We’ve been doing it for so long now that we know what we’re doing so I know they’ll be ok here.”
The cattery was opened in 1997 by David when he decided to diversify the farm’s offerings. They have two units, and are planning to use one unit for housing cats from Ukraine, whilst the other will remain open for business as usual for their regular customers. The couple are kitted out with all the food and equipment they need for the new arrivals, and are looking forward to meeting them and getting the cats settled in.
Previously, the couple told the MEN how they intended to stay in their home. David said that they were promised a new contract when the nearby St Catherine’s Academy school was completed about 15 years ago.
He said: “But we haven’t paid a penny in rent since 2007, because we never heard from Bolton council until 2016. As soon as we put our opposing possession application in they suddenly got interested, but we think we have a very sound legal case to claim the land because we have been putting it to effective use.”
And he added: “My family have been here for 300 years, I’m not leaving now.”
A spokesperson for Bolton council previously said: “We are unable to comment due to ongoing legal proceedings.”
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