An animal rescue could be shut down if planners have their way tomorrow night.
Swale council, already reeling from previous planning scandals, looks set to turn down a request for a change of use from agriculture land to animal sanctuary for the trouble-hit Happy Pants Ranch.
Founder Amey James, 36, moved onto the 20 acres of Hawes Wood in Iwade Lane, Bobbing, Sittingbourne, in January and submitted the change of use application.
Almost a year later, officers are recommending refusal when it is discussed at Swale House on Thursday.
Amey said: “It’s heartbreaking. I’ve been really upset and just burst into tears. It’s just another blow to what we are trying to do here.
“Since we moved from Stockbury we have ploughed all our money into making this place usable. It hadn’t been touched for so long we had to put in roadways and pathways just to reach the animals.
“I hate to think what will happen to us and the animals if we are turned down.”
She and partner Phil Greenhalgh, 33, say they don't have a Plan B because there are no other sites to move to.
She said: “I would lose my house, too, because I live on the sanctuary site. The repercussions are massive.”
The sanctuary is home to 450 animals including 19 pigs, seven dogs, 28 cats, 34 turtles and terrapins, a flock of 40 geese and ducks, nearly 100 chickens and cockerels, nine cows, 15 sheep, 17 goats, two emus, 32 guinea pigs, three snakes, two lizards, six ponies, a peacock and 50 goldfish.
She said: “You won’t believe the types of animals people ask us to take in. We are their last-chance saloon. We won’t refuse anything which doesn’t have a home. I never want to see any animal put to sleep.”
Campaigners have been emailing councillors on the committee to urge them to overturn the recommendation. Amey is also expected to give a three-minute speech at the meeting at 7pm.
Supporter Roger Harris said: "I and many other folk have emailed the councillors who sit on the planning committee urging them to stand up to the planners and vote to allow the planning application to go ahead. The Ranch has been pilloried by the planners since day one."
Amey added: "I’m normally one for keeping positive but some days it’s very hard, near impossible, and today is one of them after finding the planners are recommending refusal of the application."
Officers say there will be:
▪️Excessive traffic on the lane
▪️Significant and unacceptable habitat clearance
▪️Front fencing causing substantial harm to the general character of the rural area
▪️ Temporary structures within the 15m ancient woodland boundary
▪️ Increasing disturbance to wildlife in the ancient woodland from additional traffic and visitors
▪️ Noise disturbance to neighbouring properties
Amey said: "How many acres of countryside has been demolished to build housing estates in Swale over the last few years? Hundreds! And we’re not destroying natural habitat, we’re preserving it!
"We’ve had so much negativity to deal with from the neighbours and council since moving here almost a year ago. I’m not sure how many more bad blows the sanctuary and I can take.
"But I’m trying my very best to be positive and really hope the charity gets the good news we’ve been waiting so long for, before Christmas."
The ranch has also had a noise Asbo issued against it after complaints of noisy cockerels and a generator. The cockerels have now been moved to the far end of the site and the generator, which had to be replaced after catching fire, has also been moved to comply with the order.
The ranch also got caught in the Swale council blunder when a junior staff member in the planning office dismissed the application as “proper whack” not thinking the reply would go live. As a result, it had to be formally rescinded. The mistake ended up featured on the Have I Got News For You TV programme on BBC on Friday night.
Amey added: “This is exactly how we spent last Christmas worrying where we were going to go. We feel the treatment we have had since we moved here has been unfair. You’d think it would be a really simple decision. It should be a no-brainer but it’s a can of worms."