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Bristol Zoo: Plans approved for nearly 200 homes despite huge public opposition

Almost 10,000 petitioners urged Bristol City Council to refuse planning permission for the scheme.


Plans have been approved for almost 200 new homes at Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton despite enormous public opposition. 

The zoo closed last year but the money raised from the new development will help pay to keep the site’s historic gardens open to the public.

Critics opposing the scheme slammed the loss of many trees and biodiversity, the impact on the architectural heritage of the Victorian buildings, and an increase in car traffic. They also questioned why the zoo decided to relocate to its new larger site in South Gloucestershire.

Nearly 10,000 petitioners and 1,000 public objections urged Bristol City Council to refuse planning permission. But councillors on the development control A committee on Wednesday, April 26, decided to press ahead and grant permission for the new homes.

‘Establishment stitch-up’

Speaking to the committee, George Ferguson, Clifton resident and former mayor, said: “I feel deeply betrayed by the management and trustees of the zoos who have conspired to dismiss viable alternatives, two of which I know have been the subject of pre-planning applications and received positive responses.

“Make no mistake, this is a Bristol establishment stitch up — and I should know. This is the last chance for Bristol to stick to its ecological principles and put ourselves onto the right side of history. 

“We will be laughed at from outside this city if you approve this dire application. It will be ugly, it will be inappropriate, and it will provide a derisory contribution to our affordable housing need.”

The plans include 196 homes, including 40 ‘affordable’ homes, and keeping a large part of the site open as free-to-access public gardens. 

Bristol Zoological Society, which owns the site, said the money raised from the development would help keep the gardens open and maintained, as well as fund their new Wild Place Project, north-west of Cribbs Causeway.

Most of the non-listed buildings and animal enclosures at the zoo, which was opened in 1836 and closed in September last year, will be demolished. The listed buildings will be converted and new buildings will be constructed. 

There will be 37 houses and 159 flats. Most of the blocks of flats will be four or five storeys, with some on the northern block reaching six storeys.

‘An exemplary scheme’

Justin Morris, chief executive of the Bristol Zoological Society, said: “I understand that closing the gardens has provoked strong feelings — people love the zoo. But we have worked respectfully with the community, staff, officers and statutory bodies in what I think will be held up as an exemplary scheme.

“That includes us opening up the much treasured gardens for free. If people really care about the Zoo Gardens, they should support our plan with its profound benefits for people and nature. 

“And if they really care about wildlife conservation, and engaging in the next generation of conservationists, they should visit our new zoo and be part of our journey to save wildlife together.”

The cost of maintaining the publicly accessible areas of the site is anticipated to reach £200,000 a year, which will be paid by the open market properties and the Clifton Conservation Hub through an estate charge. 

The average estate charge would be £1,274 for each property, although the actual number will vary depending on the size of the home.

Each apartment will also have to pay a service charge, to cover insurance, maintenance and repairs. This is expected to cost between £2,000 and £3,150 for a two-bed flat each year, on top of the estate charge.

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  • Well done Bristol Councillors and Planners for agreeing to this new ‘zoo’ housing development! Bristol desperately need more homes, rather than just protecting the interests of the people objecting to the zoo’s redevelopment. No doubt most of those are ‘Cliftonites’ who don’t want their precious way of life disturbed or changed in any way.

    No doubt they are happy for more building to be done on every available piece of available land elsewhere in the city … but ‘don’t touch our Clifton’, seems to be their motto.

    These days everyone has to help reduce the terrible housing crisis. They now complain that there isn’t enough social housing in the complex – but surely we need homes for all Bristolians … the more homes built for those who can afford to buy their own, the more it hopefully reduces the problem of ever rising house prices … Bristol now third highest in the country I read only last week!

    Then seemingly now, in almost desperation, they are going on about biodiversity, saying they are concerned about trees being cut down etc (more will be replanted anyway)… yet most of them live within a couple of minutes walk from Bristol’s biggest open space – The Clifton Downs.

    They also seem to ignore the fact that the zoo will be continuing … bigger and better … but in a new, more sensible environment for the 21st century.

    And as for their claims that the zoo should’t have been closed in the first place … well, no doubt these were the same people complaining that the zoo were allowed to use a piece of the huge Downs area to discretely park cars on a small number of very busy days.

    So let those protesters spend their money on launching legal objections etc (as they have said they will do) but hopefully the council – and the courts – will ignore them.


  • Even though they say they’re putting some “affordable” houses on there, I wonder how soon the developer will be approaching the council and asking for permission to have no affordable houses because otherwise the development won’t be profitable (enough)? IIRC that happened with Finzels Reach…


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