For those in Catford, it is part of the landscape, and for those who have never been, the Catford Cat may well have popped up on social media. Built in 1974, the fibreglass giant dominates the area, perching atop the entrance to the Catford Centre.
But it hasn’t been without drama. The first time the cat’s nine lives were threatened came in 2008 when there were discussions to demolish the cat as part of a development scheme, but the outcry amongst residents prevented the plans coming to fruition. Instead, in 2011 it was repainted and in 2013 was listed as an item of Catford Public Art.
So beloved is the landmark that a Lewisham resident launched a petition, after rumours swirled that the council may demolish it as part of its redevelopment plans. The defiant petition garnered signatures from over 2,000 people.
However, Lewisham Council confirmed on Twitter on Monday (March 20) that the famous landmark would be staying put, much to the joy of locals.
On Wednesday (March 22) Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, pledged at the cabinet meeting: “The Catford Cat won’t be leaving on my watch.”
As we bring new homes, new jobs, new shops & open spaces to the area the Catford Cat WILL STAY in Catford for generations to come
— Lewisham Council (@LewishamCouncil) 20 March 2017
Samantha Kennedy, who started the Change.org petition, told Eastlondonlines: “I started the petition because of the Council’s consultation on the future of our town centre.
“I saw on social media people both for and against the Catford Cat, and on the consultation itself you could choose to ‘get rid of’ or ‘keep the Catford Cat’ as options for improving the area.
“I’ve lived in Catford since 2013. For me the Catford Cat makes our high street unique- I know I’m back home in Catford when I see it. Many of the petition comments reflected this- people remember it going up in the 1970s and take their children to see it now.
“The response to the petition was totally overwhelming, it’s amazing to see so many people engaged in the debate about the future of our town centre. This petition has shown what happens when local people express themselves.
“The Council’s consultation is open for the rest of 2017 so all local people should continue to visit and comment to say what they do and don’t want to see in the future.”
The landmark even has a popular Twitter account, and shared the petition with its 1000+ followers. Followers of the cat gave an impassioned response, particularly teacher Annabelle Hill, who suggested they “form a human chain around our cat!”
Lewisham Council also celebrated the issue “stimulating debate amongst people who are passionate about the area”.
Catford-based photographer for Tube Mapper, Luke Agbaimoni, was vocal on social media about keeping Catford’s identity firmly in place. He told Eastlondonlines: “London is more than Big Ben. Each area of the city has it’s own story, personality and attitude.
“Some even have their own landmarks that are infamous to the inhabitants of that area, such as the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, the Elephant at Elephant & Castle and the Catford Cat.
“I understand that areas must evolve and improve, but removing icons like this will result in stripping the area of its identity. It’s a landmark of the area. When I think ‘Catford’, it’s the first thing I picture in my mind.”
Not everyone is as fond of the figure, however, with some residents on Twitter branding it an “eyesore” and a “blot on the landscape”.
@LewishamCouncil Loved? Are you mad? It’s a blot on the landscape, always has been…
— C&V Walker (@Bromleywalkers) 20 March 2017
Catford councillor James J Walsh, told Eastlondonlines of the upcoming changes to revitalise the area: “The Catford Town Centre Regeneration programme is an exciting initiative that will help deliver London’s desperately needed housing whilst also rejuvenating the local economy.
“We’ve already secured a pledge of £30,000,000+ for a Housing Action Zone from London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan towards affordable housing, opening up a new affordable creative business starter hub, bringing new independent and award winning bars- like Little Nan’s- and crucially stimulating a sense of local community through projects like Catford Film.
“Our hope now is to keep the momentum on this redevelopment, and the Council are seeking the views of people who live, work or study in and around Catford to tell us what they like, and what needs improving using our new tool, www.catfordtowncentre.commonplace.is.”
Despite the changes, with the petition officially marked a victory it seems the Catford Cat is truly here to stay.