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Bristol Zoological Society - Strategy to 2035

Frequently asked questions

Please see below a list of frequently asked questions regarding our Strategy to 2035.

What are the future plans for Bristol Zoological Society? What is ‘Safeguarding Our Future’?

To safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society we are planning to relocate Bristol Zoo to the Wild Place Project site to create a world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England. The new Bristol Zoo will offer spacious, modern facilities, significant growth in our conservation and education work and an innovative and exciting visitor experience. In order to deliver this exciting new vision and to secure the future of Bristol Zoo, the Clifton site will be sold.

Bristol Zoological Society has always been at the forefront of leading the transformation in the way animals are cared for, protected and understood. We want to continue that legacy, now and for decades to come.

What will the new Bristol Zoo be like?

The new Bristol Zoo will be an inspiring, immersive wildlife experience with conservation and sustainability at its heart, where animals will have the space and facilities to thrive. New exhibits will link visitors to our conservation projects around the world and provide the tools for visitors to become conservationists themselves.

Pioneering landscape architects, Grant Associates, have been appointed as lead designers and landscape architects for the new Bristol Zoo. Grant Associates have previously worked on the world-famous Gardens by the Bay in Singapore as well as Bristol Harbourside and the YTL Brabazon project in Filton, Bristol.

The Society has also appointed award-winning architects and urban design practice, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS). FCBS has an international reputation for design quality, for pioneering environmental expertise and a progressive architectural approach. The work of FCBS has frequently been recognised in major industry awards, including winning 55 awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Previous work includes the Bath Abbey Footprint Project, the University of Roehampton Library and a number of projects at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Will you be investing in facilities for visitors at the new Bristol Zoo?

The new Bristol Zoo will be world class. In Phase 1 of our plans we will create a new entrance building, called ‘Wild Welcome’ which will include a new café and shop. We will be investing in the site and making the visit accessible to all, from wheelchair users to visitors with special needs.

How much will the new Bristol Zoo cost?

Over the course of the next 20 years, we plan to invest £48m into capital development of the new Bristol Zoo. This will be completed in phases, with the first phase estimated for completion in 2024.

Why have you made this decision now? Is it due to Coronavirus?

For many years Bristol Zoo Gardens has been struggling with fundamental and persistent challenges. An inability to meet the changing needs of the animals within the available space and infrastructure, and declining visitor numbers. The Society has made an operating loss in four of the last six years. The impact of COVID-19 has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and how we address the fundamental and persistent challenges that we face in order to save Bristol Zoological Society.

Since our announcement last year both zoos have been closed for a further three months as a result of the national lockdown. In addition our parking issues have been further amplified following the settlement of a judicial review brought by Downs for People against Bristol City Council, meaning that from 2024 onwards the North Car Park at the Zoo will only be able to be used by people visiting the Downs.

Have you really tested this thoroughly? Is it the only option?

We have been through a very rigorous process to explore a number of options as well as taking independent professional advice from a range of sources to ensure we are taking the best possible course of action for the Society’s future.

Our Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favour of this plan and it has the backing of the Society’s Directors and Chairs of Trustees from the last 20 years, who have helped shape this new vision. We recognise that out of adversity comes opportunity, and we know that this is the right thing to do.

Why don’t you open a different type of visitor attraction or venue at the Clifton site instead?

As part of our extensive strategic review in 2020, we explored other options for the Clifton site, which included other types of visitor attraction and different types of zoos. Working with professional advisors we do not believe that any will be viable or sustainable over the long-term on the Clifton site.

Since our announcement last year both zoos have been closed for a further three months as a result of the national lockdown, creating further financial pressures for Bristol Zoological Society. In addition our parking issues have been amplified following the settlement of a judicial review brought by Downs for People against Bristol City Council, meaning that from 2024 onwards the North Car Park at the Zoo will only be able to be used by people visiting the Downs.

Have you been involved in developing the OurWorld Bristol concept?

No. In May 2021 a concept was launched by an independent group of people for an alternative future for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site involving an augmented reality experience, called OurWorld Bristol.

We have received a range of proposals for the site from interested parties including the OurWorld concept.

As a charity it is important that we ensure that the sale of our site allows us to achieve best value and deliver our charitable benefits for the long-term, specifically our mission of Saving Wildlife Together. We continue to believe that a residential-led scheme on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site is the best way to do this.

We remain committed to our exciting new strategy and our thoroughly-considered plans which have come about following an extensive strategic review last year.

Please see our dedicated page for information on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

When will the move happen?

It is anticipated that the Clifton site would remain open to visitors until late 2022. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.

What will happen to the Clifton site?

In order to deliver the exciting new vision for Bristol Zoo and to secure the future of Bristol Zoological Society, the Clifton site will be sold. We will lead a residential-planning application to ensure the creation of a development that we can all be proud of and to ensure Bristol Zoo Garden’s legacy continues. The planning application will include new housing largely in areas where there are already built structures and want to create the ‘Clifton Conservation Hub’ in the Zoo’s iconic main entrance building to ensure the heritage and story of the Clifton site will continue to be told. This would become the base of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, community and conservation programmes, an exhibition of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ heritage and a café.

As a charity it is important that we ensure that the sale of our site allows us to achieve best value and deliver our charitable benefits for the long-term, specifically our mission of Saving Wildlife Together. We continue to believe that a residential-led scheme on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site is the best way to do this.

The funds raised are not only to enable the delivery of the first phase of the development of the new Bristol Zoo but also to increase and grow our education and direct conservation programmes.

Why is West Car Park being sold?

To safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society, we are relocating Bristol Zoo to our Wild Place Project site, in the north of Bristol, to create a world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England. The challenges of recent years have had a highly detrimental impact on our finances and the Society has made an operating loss in four of the last six years. As part of the first phase of our strategy, we have submitted a planning application for residential development of Bristol Zoo Garden’s West Car Park on College Road. The planning application was submitted in early April and it is now on the Bristol City Council ‘Planning Online’ website.

Why is West Car Park being sold separately to Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The sale of the West Car Park will provide the vital funds needed to initiate the next phases of the new Bristol Zoo and sustain Bristol Zoological Society over the next three years during this transition period. This phased approach ensures we have sufficient capital and security ahead of the redevelopment plans for the Bristol Zoo Gardens.

The Executive Board and Trustees of Bristol Zoological Society will be leading a separate planning permission process for the future of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site. A team of leading architects, designers and heritage experts have been appointed to help take forward plans for the redevelopment of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site. The multi-disciplinary team is led by award-winning Penoyre & Prasad architects, working with LUC landscape architects and heritage and conservation specialists Alan Baxter.

The West Car Park is a brownfield site, and the main Bristol Zoo Gardens site is classified differently. We are not assuming any transfers to the main site in terms of design. Planning permission relating to the main Bristol Zoo Gardens site will be submitted in late 2021 at the earliest. 

Please see our dedicated page for information on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

When will West Car Park close?

A date has not yet been decided and will depend on the time required to receive planning permission and then the subsequent sale of the land. It is anticipated that there might be a short period of time between the sale of the West Car Park and the closure of Bristol Zoo Gardens in late 2022 when the West Car Park may not be available. However we will work with the purchaser of the West Car Park to reduce this period of time where possible. We will ensure that we provide Members, visitors and venue hire guests with adequate notice.

Will there be enough parking places for all the Zoo visitors?

We have data for the car park’s use over several years and have undertaken on-street parking surveys with expert transport consultants Peter Evans Partnership. This has allowed us to gain a sound insight into parking need and availability in the local vicinity.

In addition, we will continue to operate a timed ticket system that we introduced during the COVID pandemic, which means we are able to ensure adequate parking is available relative to the number of visitors arriving at Bristol Zoo Gardens. This will continue to be monitored.

Where will visitors and Members park once West Car Park is closed?

Bristol Zoological Society has no other planned changes to parking until after we close in late 2022. Our North Car Park will remain in use every day and visitors and Members can also continue to use on-street parking as they currently do. It should be noted that the West Car Park is mainly used by Bristol Zoological Society colleagues, and many will be relocating to our Wild Place site before the West Car Park is sold. On some of our busier days visitors and Members will also be able to use the overflow car park off Ladies Mile.

Where will venue hire guests park on busy days once West Car Park is closed?

They will park in North Car Park or use on-street parking. Many events happen in the evening when the North Car Park is not otherwise in use.

Are there any incentives for visitors using sustainable or public transport?

Bristol Zoological Society encourages people to use sustainable and public transport. We continue to offer a discount for visitors using sustainable transport, more information can be found here.

How can I find out more information about plans for the proposed development for the West Car Park?

The latest updates on all of our projects are shared in our newsletter and in the News section of our website. Further information on this project can also be located on the West Car Park pages found here.

Could the Society launch a public appeal to save Bristol Zoo Gardens?

We launched the BZS Appeal in spring 2020 and to date it has raised just over £100,000. Whilst we are grateful to our supporters for their generosity, our capital investment shortfall is substantial, and expected to rise to £44 million over 20 years. The Society has also operated at a loss in four of the last six years, and the unexpected closure due to the third National Lockdown in early 2021 has further exacerbated our challenges. The pandemic has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and we must act now to safeguard the Society’s future and that future is a new world-class Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place site.

What about the legacy of Bristol Zoo Gardens? Many people have fond memories and it will be missed by everyone.

We realise the significance of this decision and we recognise that many people have very special memories of Bristol Zoo Gardens. But a lot has changed and many of the animals associated with these memories are no longer at Bristol Zoo Gardens, for very valid reasons. We know there is an enormous amount of civic pride in our institution. We will embrace this sense of pride and invite people to join the conversation to help shape the new Bristol Zoo. We want to create a world-class zoo that sets the standard for a modern, forward-looking zoo in the 21st century – something we will all be proud of and where new memories can be made for generations to come. This new plan creates an exciting new chapter for Bristol Zoo and we are confident and full of anticipation for what the future holds.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is iconic to Bristol, so why invest in South Gloucestershire?

We need to look beyond local authority boundaries to achieve our conservation mission and to offer the people of Bristol and the West of England, a world-class zoo which delivers on our conservation, sustainability, education and outreach ambitions to help address the climate and ecological emergencies facing us all. Our proposal has the full support of local authority leaders.

Could the Society approach the Government to save Bristol Zoo Gardens – isn’t there a Zoo Animals Support Fund?

Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are not eligible for the Government’s Zoo Animals Fund. The Society and other leading charitable zoos have approached Defra for support, and Defra has been kept informed of our current situation. We have explored all options, and are confident our new strategy is the right one to guarantee a future for Bristol Zoo.

How much money would be needed to keep the Clifton site open?

The strategic review shows that the site is not suitable for the changing needs of animals, and visitor numbers are in decline. We are confident that selling the Clifton site will enable us to build a new Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place site that is world-class and fit for the 21st century.

How much money will you make by selling the Clifton site?

Sufficient money will be raised through selling our properties in Clifton and wider fundraising activities to realise our ambitions for a world-class new Bristol Zoo and amplify our conservation, education and outreach programmes.

What will happen to the plant collection at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The existing and much-loved gardens will be largely unchanged. The planning application will include new housing in areas where there are already built structures. The Society will lead a planning application to ensure the creation of a development that we can all be proud of and to make sure Bristol Zoo Garden’s legacy will continue.

Why are you moving Bristol Zoo? Is it related to Animal Welfare or lack of space?

Bristol Zoological Society has always been at the forefront of leading the transformation in the way animals are cared for, protected and understood. We want to continue that legacy, now and for decades to come. The Bristol Zoo Gardens site is only 12 acres in size and over several years the number of large animal species has reduced significantly. By contrast, the new Bear Wood exhibit that opened to critical acclaim at Wild Place in 2019 is 7.5 acres and contains just 4 animal species. This one exhibit is three-quarters the size of Bristol Zoo Gardens. The Wild Place Project site allows us the space to grow in the future.

What will happen to the animals that are currently at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The animals will either move to the new Bristol Zoo or be rehomed to other zoos and aquariums, through a planned and phased process over three years.

What animals will there be at the new Bristol Zoo?

We will be developing an animal species plan, that maximises the impact we can make to the conservation of wildlife. We will also be reaching out to our visitors, members and friends to join the conversation and suggest animals they would like to see.

How will visitors with no cars get to Wild Place Project? Will there be buses to the new Bristol Zoo?

It is important to us as a conservation charity that we are able to offer sustainable transport solutions for our visitors. As part of this, and to ensure that those without cars can visit the new Bristol Zoo, we will work with public transport providers to develop practical solutions. We are in the early stages of planning for the new Bristol Zoo, but there are already plans in place to improve public transport near J17 of the M5 motorway (linked to the YTL Arena Bristol development) and we will ensure that there are viable transport solutions for visitors to the new Bristol Zoo. 

More information on the plans for the new Bristol Zoo can be found here.

Does the Society plan to consult with neighbours and local businesses both at Bristol Zoo Gardens (Clifton) and Wild Place Project (Easter Compton/Cribbs Causeway)?

It is extremely important that the Society engages with residents and local businesses in Clifton, at Easter Compton and Cribbs Causeway. The Society will be meeting with local residents and businesses as part of the planning application process to better understand their concerns, hopes and suggestions. It is important to the Society that we are a responsible and good neighbour.

Whilst developing our plans for the West Car Park, we undertook an extensive programme of Community Engagement before submitting the planning application. This included a consultation pack (including a leaflet and questionnaire) delivered to over 200 local addresses , digital exhibition boards and online questionnaire on our website, Facebook posts geographically targeted at Clifton residents, separate meetings with near neighbours, two Public Digital Forums, and regular meetings with the Community Forum. More information on our plans for the West Car Park can be found here.

There will be a period of public consultation for the Bristol Zoo Gardens main site, which will begin over the summer when we will be meeting with, and listening to feedback from, a range of interested groups including near neighbours and Clifton residents. More information on our plans for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site can be found here.

We will also begin a period of public consultation for the new Bristol Zoo. It is important that we talk with our neighbours, but also those who will be visiting us or using the facilities at the new Bristol Zoo. We are at the very early stages, but more information on our plan for the new Bristol Zoo can be found here.

The Society launched a strategy document ‘Towards 2025’. Has this now been abandoned?

Yes, ‘Towards 2025’ was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. The ambitions of our charitable mission remain unchanged, however the way in which we achieve this ambition has changed. The new strategy sees the sale of the Clifton site and major investment in a new world-class Bristol Zoo at the Wild Place site. The pandemic has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and changed the way we can now best achieve our mission of Saving Wildlife Together. 

Our new Strategy to 2035 can be downloaded here as a pdf or you can view our Strategy here online in an accessible format.

How will the plans enable you to be a more diverse and inclusive organisation, and better represent the people of Bristol?

‘Saving Wildlife Together’ means working with wider communities when planning the new Bristol Zoo and the education, community and outreach programmes. Proposed activities include use of the urban conservation hub in Clifton as well as work and partnerships within disadvantaged wards and communities. Diversity, inclusion and equity form part of the work of a forward-thinking and world-class zoo.

What are we doing to ensure that our conservation work is more effective and amplified, and are the plans to create stronger and more strategic partnerships?

Our animal species plan for the new Bristol Zoo will consider the conservation impact we can deliver whilst ensuring high levels of engagement and opportunities for formal and informal learning. We will be connecting our visitors to global and local conservation projects, inspiring the next generation of conservationists and providing tools to create ambassadors for change.

What about our Membership / Dual Membership / Annual Pass?

The Membership Team have put a plan in place to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. 

All memberships will continue throughout the transition to the new Bristol Zoo, there will be no need to pause or stop your membership. Steps have been taken to ensure that all members get full value from their membership. 

We hope our Members, Annual Pass Holders and Dual Members will be excited by the plans and opportunities for a new Bristol Zoo. We will ensure that we communicate clearly with Members and Annual Pass Holders throughout the process and encourage their involvement. 

We will be reaching out to our Members and friends, past and present, to join the conversation and to help shape the new Bristol Zoo. Everyone is invited to join the conversation. 

Your membership helps Bristol Zoological Society care for the animals, the sites, and also contributes to our important conservation in ten countries, across four continents.

For more specific information on each type of membership and how it will be affected visit our Bristol Zoo Gardens website by clicking here.

What about Life Memberships?

We have been in touch directly with our Life Members. If you haven’t heard from us, please email development@bristolzoo.org.uk.

I have emailed you but not had a reply. When can I expect you to reply?

We are currently experiencing a very high volume of enquiries and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Please bear with us during these unprecedented times.

How can we get involved?

We know there is an enormous amount of civic pride in our institution. We will embrace this sense of pride and invite people to join the conversation to help shape the new Bristol Zoo. And it is important that staff, volunteers, Bristolians, and zoo visitors, Members and supporters also contribute to the exhibition space within the new urban conservation hub in the iconic entrance building at the Clifton site. 

If you would like to get in touch with us regarding the plans to safeguard our future, please email us at future@bzsociety.org.uk.

When will we find out more?

Please check our social media or website for all the latest information or sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch.