Amenity organisations call for an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs

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National and local amenity organisations today called on Bristol City Council to put an immediate end to zoo parking on the Downs. In a joint statement, Bristol Civic Society, the Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge, the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers, and the Redland and Cotham Amenity Association said:

‘The Downs are one of Bristol’s most prized assets, protected by law since the nineteenth century as a place for the people of Bristol to enjoy. The zoo was first allowed to park on the Downs in the 1960s as an emergency measure. It is shocking that parking has expanded and continued for fifty years, in clear contravention of planning policies. The zoo applied for a seventh temporary planning permission in November. Previous applications have been granted on the basis that the zoo would take steps swiftly to end its need for the Downs. Yet, after all these years, the Downs are still being used for parking and the zoo now claims there is no practical alternative. The zoo’s application should be considered rapidly and permission refused. The zoo is a much-loved local amenity: its use of the Downs for parking is at odds with its environmental and social aspirations. The zoo needs to make proper transport provision for its visitors.’

Major amenity organisations and many individuals have always objected to zoo parking on the Downs. As well as the organisations issuing this statement, objectors to the current application include the council’s Conservation Advisory Panel and Bristol Nordic Walking. Avon Wildlife Trust has expressed concern about the loss of nature conservation value.

Zoo parking on the Downs started on six days a year in the 1960s with a licence from the Downs Committee. By 1996 use had risen to 56 days and the Zoo sought a licence for 102. It should have applied for planning permission as soon as the use of the Downs for parking (not just by the Zoo) rose above 28 days, probably in the 1980s. Following public pressure, the Council’s Planning Enforcement Team wrote to the Zoo and Downs Committee in 1997 requesting a planning application. Since then six temporary planning permissions have been granted. The last permission in 2013 was for three years to December 2016.

The current application is for 40 days in 2017, 35 days in 2018 and 30 days in 2019. The first round of consultation ended on 6 January. It is possible to submit comments until the application is considered by a planning committee (date not yet fixed)

The land off Ladies Mile can accommodate almost seven hundred cars, twice as many as the Zoo’s two permanent car parks put together (they have a combined total of 340 spaces).

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