‘Killed off by....’ - George Ferguson vows to name people over Bristol Zoo closure on gravestone

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But he isn’t giving up hope on saving the attraction yet

‘For my grandkids’ and ‘luxury flats, no thanks’ were the messages on placards being waved as more than 100 people opposed to the relocation of Bristol Zoo took to the streets this morning (March 12) in a noisy protest march.

People of all ages joined the walk from the Victoria Rooms in Clifton to the now-closed zoo, where they then congregated at the entrance to hear from speakers, including former mayor George Ferguson.

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The protest was organised by Save Bristol Zoo Gardens, which is calling on Bristol City Council’s planning committee to refuse a planning application from Bristol Zoological Society to create an estate of ‘luxury’ homes, plus a public park, at the 12-acre site in Clifton.

Selling off the site for homes would fund the zoo’s project to open a new attraction at the Wild Place Project in South Gloucestershire, with construction work planned from 2024. But many of the animals from Bristol Zoo would not be at the new site, and some have already left for other places after closure last year.

However, campaigners are holding out hope that they can put a stop to the zoo’s plans. Last month, a public meeting was held where former mayor Mr Ferguson said the city council’s planning committee will be on the ‘wrong side of history’ if it granted permission for the homes.

This morning, Mr Ferguson, standing on a small ladder and holding a microphone, told the crowd how Bristol Zoological Society founder Henry Riley opened Bristol Zoo after finding the fourth dinosaur in the world, near to the site, 187 years ago.

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He said: “It has been absolutely at the heart of Bristol’s history and reputation and especially as the only European Green capital that the UK will ever have, if we go the way we’re going. It is a really proud thing that we have this wonderful walled garden here.

“It is not by any description a brownfield site, which is what the planners will argue to the planning committee. We have to make people realise that if they turn this down they will have killed off one of Bristol’s, if not Bristol’s finest natural treasure.”

Mr Ferguson, who has spearheaded the campaign, then said he had started raising money to create a gravestone for the zoo. On it, he said it would be the names of those people who helped ‘kill’ it off - and that brought a big cheer from the crowd. It wasn’t clear if he was referring to councillors on the planning committee, the zoo bosses, or both.

He said: “I would like to raise money for a large gravestone just in case, ‘RIP Bristol Zoo’. Just in case. Because if we do it, it won’t happen. ‘Killed off by...’ and a list of those who did.”

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More than 100 people took part in the protest which ended at the entrance to Bristol ZooMore than 100 people took part in the protest which ended at the entrance to Bristol Zoo
More than 100 people took part in the protest which ended at the entrance to Bristol Zoo | Alex Ross

Also speaking was Tom Jones, a Bristol-based musician who has written a detailed 80-page report about the case against closing the zoo. He said it should be down to the people of Bristol to decide on what happens with the zoo.

Bristol Zoological Society has said the closure ‘wasn’t an easy option’. It has said the decline in paying visitors, uncertainty over the future use of the north car park and the lack of space at the 12-acre Clifton site mean moving the a new site is the right decision. You can read the full response by clicking here

A decision was set to be made by Bristol City Council’s planning committee this week - but it has now been postponed with no new date set as yet.

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