Bristol Civic Society reject Zoo housing plans over fears historic site will become ‘gated community’

It says the Zoo’s plans are ‘neither fish nor fowl’

The Bristol Civic Society has slammed plans to turn Bristol Zoo into a housing development and public park over fears the historic site will eventually become a ‘gated community’.

Bristol Zoo announced back in 2020 that it would close its Clifton site for good and move out of the city after 186 years to its Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire.

Since then a row has broken out on what should happen to Bristol Zoo Gardens, the historic 136 acre site and ‘oasis of calm’ that the Zoo will leave behind.

The Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) wants to sell parts of the site for housing with approximately 200 homes created in new or converted buildings, and open it as a public park with a playground, lake and cafe.

A planning application was lodged in June but meanwhile, OurBristolWorld has launched a counter-proposal to create a ‘virtual reality zoo’ at the site.

The BZS’s plans have been backed by many including Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, as they will lend a financial boost to the attraction while providing more housing for Bristol, something the city is desperately in need of.

An artist’s impression of what the new apartment blocks built at the site could look like. 20 per cent of the new homes will be ‘affordable’.

Others such as the Clifton and Hotwells Society are not convinced, deeming the plans ‘unimaginative’ - and now the Bristol Civic Society has joined that fore, as it says the plans are ‘neither fish nor fowl’.

In a formal submission against the plans, the group said: “[The site] would be better either being kept as open space or redeveloped for housing.

“The Society questions who will wish to visit the site when it is surrounded and dominated by private housing.

“The special character of the existing Gardens will be further eroded with vehicles accessing an area where no vehicles have previously been permitted, both passing through the open space and parking there on a permanent basis.

“The verdant nature of the area will inevitably be completely transformed.”

Bristol Zoo Gardens would be opened to the public for free for the first time since it opened in 1836.

The BCS added that maintaining such a significant area of open space, presumably paid for by service charges on future residents who will also be housed in coverted buildings throughout the Zoo site, would be ‘challenging’.

“There will be inevitable pressure to create a gated community at some point in the future,” the group added.

“The Zoo Gardens currently provide an oasis of calm that has been enjoyed by Bristolians for generations.

“We consider that they are of such special environmental and historical importance that they should be retained as a fully accessible public asset.”