Bristol Zoological Society - Strategy to 2035

Frequently asked questions – Bristol Zoo Gardens

Please see below a list of frequently asked questions regarding our Bristol Zoo Gardens proposal.

Bristol Zoo Gardens – general

Why are you selling the Bristol Zoo Gardens site? What’s the reason for moving the zoo to the Wild Place Project?

The move will safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society and help protect and improve the lives of the amazing animals, in a new world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England.

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. Around 80 percent of species at the new Bristol Zoo will be linked to our conservation work. To achieve this, we will be selling the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

What are your plans for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site?

We will preserve Bristol Zoo Gardens’ legacy by giving free public access to the gardens for the first time in our 185 year history. And we will create new children’s play area, exhibition space and café. The gardens’ existing and much-loved historic features, like the Monkey Temple, will be enhanced.

The overall design is for a residential-led scheme, with 201 new homes, which will be located mainly where there are already structures, so that the built footprint of the site will be the same as it is today. The homes are planned to be a range of sizes to encourage a multi-generational community and 20% will be affordable.

How much are you hoping to sell the site for?

It is too early to finalise specific numbers. However, as a charity it is important that the sale of the site allows us to achieve best value and deliver 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.

How can we view the detailed plans for BZG?

Now we have submitted the planning application to Bristol City Council, you can view our proposals and the planning documents on the Council’s website here, where you have the opportunity to add your comments.

What is the Clifton conservation hub?

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.

Won’t having Clifton conservation hub event space encourage parties, late night drinking, and increased noise?

The hub event space will primarily be used in the day, to ensure we protect the legacy of the zoo and preserve public access. It will:

  • Provide a space for public exhibitions, where we can celebrate the history and heritage of Bristol Zoo Gardens
  • Offer updates on our ongoing conservation work in the UK and abroad
  • Be available for local community groups to hire and conservation groups to use

In addition, the café will be available on Friday and Saturday evenings for private hire and will be licensed for the sale of alcohol for early evening events. This is the same as today and we do not anticipate increased noise.

How many residences will there be on site (number of apartments and houses)?

There will be a total of 201 much-needed and high-quality sustainable homes for Bristol, with 20% affordable. There will be 27 new family homes, 22 homes in restored historic buildings, 152 new apartments, of which 41 will be affordable. Homes will be accessible, adaptable and of varying sizes, and located in areas where there are already mainly built structures, ensuring the same built footprint area as today. The homes are planned to be a range of sizes to encourage a multi-generational community.

Have the buildings been lowered in height or repositioned since the last consultation?

The highest building has been lowered from seven to six storeys on the north side of the site along Clifton Down. Along Northcote Road, the buildings have been stepped back from the boundary wall, allowing at least 21 metres between these and existing buildings on Northcote Road.

How will sustainability be integrated within the proposal?

Homes will follow passive principles, with a minimum 50% reduction in regulated CO2 through enhanced fabric performance, air tightness and efficient building form, effective glazing and shading, mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems, dual aspect builds plus energy-efficient lighting. There will be air source heat pumps, a hybrid ambient loop system with water source heat pumps, and renewable energy generation via photovoltaic (PV) panels. Designs include a sustainable urban drainage system, surface water infiltration and rainwater harvesting.

What are the latest access proposals to the site?

To manage the impact on surrounding roads and the site, we are proposing three vehicle and cycle access points, with footways adjacent to each vehicle access. Entrances will be on College Road, just south of the Cecil Road junction, on Northcote Road for residents in the northern properties, and Guthrie Road will be used for one-way car entry.

What are the plans for transport, especially car parking and traffic management?

We are working with transport consultants to review and manage the impact of cars on the local community. There will be 120 car spaces for 201 dwellings, with 20% electric car charging and capacity to increase charging points in the future, and a car club space. Cars travelling to the site will reduce from an average of 1,000 cars each day to 700, with increased use of public and active transport (eg cycling). Two-way traffic entrances at Northcote Road and College Road will reduce the impact of cars on smaller roads. Vehicles on site will park in undercroft parking spaces, with living roofs, or under planted pergolas. Electric charging points and bicycle storage facilities will encourage the use of green transport.

How many trees will be lost?

Our plans work around the site’s high-value trees, and include the findings of extensive health checks and root surveys. Tree removal will be only be undertaken where necessary to enable the scheme as a whole. Passionate about nature, we will plant two trees for every tree we need to remove. High-grade trees will be kept intact. There will be new plant species, including those that are native and locally endemic to encourage wildlife. New landscaping and work to improve the soil will boost the site’s biodiversity, and the lake will be enhanced to improve the habitat for fish and amphibians.

How are you protecting the legacy of Bristol Zoo Gardens?

By leading on the planning application we can help protect the legacy of Bristol Zoo Gardens. And this is also why we are also proposing a Management Board (of which the Society will be a member) to oversee the maintenance of the Gardens and future programming of cultural, educational and community activities on site.

What are the timelines? When will Bristol Zoo gardens close and work begin?

Bristol Zoological Society has now submitted a planning application. Bristol Zoo Gardens will then close to the public on 3 September 2022, before agreement of sale in 2023 and hand over of the site to the purchaser in January 2024. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo.

Why don’t you open a new visitor attraction 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. Following legal action taken by Downs for People, the North Car Park will not be available for use by any visitor attraction following the closure of Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Have you been involved in developing the OurWorld Bristol concept? What’s Bristol Zoological Society’s response?

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 the sale of our site allows us to achieve best value and delivers 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. This will protect the legacy of Bristol Zoo Gardens, while helping to protect and improve the lives of the amazing animals, in a new world-class zoo for Bristol and the west of England. 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 habitat.

When can the public expect to see more detailed plans for the new Zoo?

We are currently developing plans to offer a ground-breaking visitor experience at our Wild Place Project site. The new Zoo will be home to some of the world’s most threatened species, with 80% of the species linked to our vital conservation work in the UK and abroad. We expect to be able to share more information about our vision for the new Bristol Zoo later in 2022.

How can I get involved?

Information on how and when you can get involved in this and also plans for the new Bristol Zoo is shared on an ongoing basis and is located on our ‘Get involved page’. Sign up to our enewsletter for updates.

You can now also view and comment on our submitted proposals on the Bristol City Council planning portal here.