Aerial View of new development

Historic grounds will be open to the public for free, in new Bristol Zoo Gardens plans

The award-winning grounds of Bristol Zoo Gardens will be open to the public after the site is sold, the charity has announced.

Free access to the 185-year-old gardens, a new, publicly accessible children’s play area and a new Clifton Conservation Hub and café, are included in plans being put forward by Bristol Zoological Society for the future of the 12-acre site.

The plans will also ensure the site’s historical buildings are protected and include a mix of sustainable, high-quality, much-needed housing with the same level of space for people and nature as today. 

At the same time, the charity will create a new, world-class Bristol Zoo with sustainability at its heart, at its Wild Place Project site. The new Bristol Zoo will ensure future generations of children can come face-to-face with animals in nature, and that the charity continues its critical conservation and education work, to protect at-risk species and habitats.

Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said: “Bristol Zoo Gardens will be more accessible than ever before. Bristolians and visitors to the city can come and enjoy the gardens, play area, lake, natural wildlife, and heritage buildings. After occupying the site for 186 years, we’ll create a legacy for Bristol Zoo Gardens, making it free for the public, while protecting and improving the lives of the amazing animals in a new world-class Bristol Zoo.”

Sunand Prasad, co-founder of Penoyre and Prasad, the architects leading the design for the site, added: “Bristol Zoo Gardens has a fantastic heritage, a wonderful landscape, and a special place in people’s hearts. The proposals reflect this. They provide beautiful public spaces and much-needed homes, in harmony with the natural world.”

The Society is leading plans for the future of the grounds, alongside a team of award-winning architects, experts and advisors, whilst engaging directly with Bristol City Council and Historic England, to ensure the special buildings and features are preserved.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

The latest draft masterplan shows up to 235 new homes will be created of which 20% are proposed to be affordable homes. The homes are planned to be a range of sizes to encourage a multi-generational community.

New life will be given to the gardens’ existing historical features, such as the Monkey Temple building, which will be protected for future generations to enjoy.

The iconic Zoo entrance building will become the Clifton Conservation Hub – a public café with indoor and outdoor seating, exhibition space, education and meeting spaces, and home to the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project. It will be the Project’s base from which they will run courses, walks, talks, school events, play schemes, and holiday activities.  

The current theatre building on the main lawn of the gardens will also be retained, providing cultural and educational talks, workshops, and seasonal events.

Sustainability and ecology are at the heart of the plans, with landscaping designed to improve the site’s biodiversity. In response to the ecological and housing crises, the designs will hopefully inspire others in the UK to create new communities within nature.

Next Steps

The second phase of the public consultation for the Clifton site is underway. Bristol Zoological Society is inviting people to see the proposals and share their views, at a public event at the Zoo’s Clifton Pavilion on Tuesday, November 16, and at an online event on November 23. For more information on these events please click here.

A third public consultation will take place in early 2022 and include an artists’ impressions of the homes.