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We have supported the Downs for People in Bristol in its exposure of a secret deal between Bristol City Councillors and the Merchant Venturers to allow Bristol Zoo to continue to use the magnificent Durdham Downs for car parking until 2039. The society has opposed the parking for many years; the council’s renewal of the licence used to be debated openly, every five years. Now the licence for a 700-space car park has been renewed by the Downs Committee for a further 20 years with the decision being made in private by a sub-committee.
The deal was revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Downs for People, which was established in 2013 to co-ordinate action against zoo parking on the Downs.
Downs for People is calling for the Downs Committee to review the decision, in an open forum after public consultation.
We have commented: ‘The management of the Downs is a nineteenth-century legacy that needs to change. Under the current Downs Committee we have had to object too often to zoo parking and other developments. The Downs are a very special open space, which with lockdown is needed now more than ever before. People have had a right to enjoy them from time immemorial, as the 1861 Downs Act reminds us. Bristol should give the Downs the protection fit for the age in which we live.’
Note: the Downs are managed under the Clifton and Durdham Downs (Bristol) Act 1861 by the Downs Committee, which comprises a joint committee of councillors and Merchant Venturers.