The Mayor of Bristol has revealed which of the two key plans for Bristol Zoo has his backing, as the debate over what should happen to the historic attraction wages on.
The Zoo’s presence in Clifton is set to come to an end after 186 years in late 2022, when the attraction will close before heading to its new home at the Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire.
Since that big announcement, two major plans for the site’s future have been put forward.
The Bristol Zoological Society wants to sell off Bristol Zoo Gardens for housing and open parts of it to the public, while Our World Bristol have earmarked the site for a potential virtual reality zoo.
At a press conference last Wednesday (March 30), Marvin Rees made it clear which side he was on.
He told BristolWorld: “The most important thing here is that Bristol Zoo survives.
“It’s not just about the animals that they are preserving.
“Remember, they play a massively significant role in species conservation, in the best possible environment - and what needs to happen is the solution that makes the success of Wild Place more likely.
“But what do I think the city’s main priority is at the moment? Housing.
“We know that the kind of homes you build and where you build them is going to be one of the biggest determinants of our impact on the planet.”
The Bristol Zoological Society’s plans, particularly when it comes to the housing aspect of them, are hotly contested by the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society, who last year successfully applied for Bristol Zoo Gardens to be listed as a Community Asset of Value.
It means that the community would have a six month ‘moratorium’ period wherein it could lodge its own bid to buy the site, and it is understood that Our World Bristol are currently drafting up plans for this very purpose.
But Mr Rees told BristolWorld that Bristol Zoo Gardens ticked all the right boxes when it came to delivering housing for Bristol people.
He added: “We should be building new homes on brownfield sites in the middle of the city, because then we can build on active travel and we’re not taking land that would otherwise be lost from nature.
“Putting homes in the middle of the city is in line with meeting our housing crisis, environmental and ecological responsibilities.
“If you oppose housing here, where else are you going to get it? Tell me about the site and the carbon footprint in terms of how far away it is from the city.”
The BZS are expected to submit a planning applicaton for its Bristol Zoo Gardens proposals over the coming weeks.