fbpx
West Car Park - illustrative aerial view

West Car Park

Redevelopment of West Car Park, College Road.

Plans approved to help safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society


Planning permission has been granted to redevelop Bristol Zoological Society’s West Car Park for residential homes, a decision that will help safeguard the Society’s future.

It applied for planning permission to develop 62 high quality, environmentally-friendly new homes, a mix of one, two and three-bed apartments and three to four-bed mews houses, of which 20 per cent will be affordable in line with Bristol City Council planning policy. 

The plans respond sensitively to the setting and context of the site. The intention is a high-quality, sustainable scheme, making use of materials that are sympathetic to the surrounding environment. As Clifton residents since 1836, we want to leave behind a legacy of which we can all be proud.

This is the first phase of the Society’s new strategy, revealed in November last year which will see the creation of a new, world-class Bristol Zoo at the Society’s 136-acre Wild Place Project site with spacious, modern facilities, significant growth in conservation and education work and a ground-breaking, innovative visitor experience.

The following amendments have been made to the proposal:


• Reduced massing/height to northern end of Block A.
The reduction of one storey to the northern section of the building means the building now steps down to respond to the properties situated to the north, and reduces the mass when viewed from Clifton Down Road.

• Roofscape of Block A revised to more traditional mansard with lower eaves height.
Revising the form of the roofscape has enabled the top storey to become more subservient to the main building. Coupled with omitting dormers from the front roofslope, the perceived mass and height of the building when viewed from eye level is reduced.

• Block A stepped back from building line with increased planting to College Road.
Stepping the building back from the road and boundary wall allows for additional planting along the College Road elevation. This has also enabled two additional units to benefit from private amenity space with ground floor units being able to open up onto landscaped areas. This also better responds to the existing terrace on College Road and character of the conservation area through suitable set backs and articulation ofin the elevation.

• The existing Cecil Road entrance gate piers will now be retained following consultation with Historic England.
The widening of the access is necessary to allow for safe access and egress from the site for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. The Victorian gate piers will now be situated at either side of the opening to retain character, and they will be dismantled and re-constructed carefully to prevent damage.

• Additional tree planting has been proposed within the development to improve and enhance ecology and biodiversity.
This has been achieved through redistributing parking bays along the rear elevation of Block A, creating additional room for soft landscaping. Where trees are being felled to enable development on the site, we are now proposing that these are replaced on site, resulting in a net gain of two trees when compared to the number of trees on site currently.

How will the development look?


Visualisation of aerial view of West Car Park on College Road
West Car Park – Aerial view
Visualisation of West Car Park on College Road, north view
West Car Park – North view
Visualisation of building block with revised dimensions on College Road, south view
West Car Park – South view
Site plan of West Car Park on College Road
West Car Park – site plan

Frequently asked questions


Why are you selling the West Car Park on College Road?

The challenges of recent years have had a highly detrimental impact on Bristol Zoological Society’s finances and the Society has made an operating loss in four of the last six years.

To safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society, we are relocating Bristol Zoo to the Wild Place Project site to create a world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England.

As part of the first phase of this new strategy, an application for planning permission has been submitted for residential development of Bristol Zoo Garden’s West Car Park on College Road. On 22 September 2021 approval for this application was granted by a Bristol City Council development control committee. The sale of the West Car Park will provide a vital contribution to the funds required to deliver the first phase of the new Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place Project site.

Why are you suggesting housing on this site?

Housing is the most profitable use for the site and will provide the funding needed to deliver the first phase of the new Bristol Zoo. In addition, there is a shortage of homes in the area and the site’s location is suitable for housing according to Bristol City Council’s planning policy.

How big is the West Car Park site?

The West Car Park site is a 0.51ha brownfield site.

Are there details about the development? For example how many apartment buildings and mews houses form part of the proposed application?

The design consists of 62 high-quality new homes in a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bed apartments and 4-bed mews houses.

Feedback from the local community was that there should be a mix of differently-sized homes.

Images can be found above.

What is the height of the highest building in the proposed scheme?

Building heights range from 4.5 storeys along College Road, to 2.5 storeys within the site – this is in response to the surrounding context.

Informal, mews-style homes will be located on the westernmost part of the site that borders neighbouring properties. A larger, more formal, apartment block will front on to College Road, creating an attractive frontage.

The design of the block on College Road has gone through a process of refinement during and following the pre-application public consultation, and the design was changed before being submitted to mean the façade is less dominant and more in keeping with neighbouring buildings, taking reference from the projecting bays and window arrangements of the existing street scene.

Our Heritage consultants’ work has helped to inform the proposals for the site, including an assessment in relation to the Conservation Area. They found that the site’s location gives sufficient space to ensure that new structures will not dominate nearby historic buildings. The building on College Road is approximately 1.2m above the existing height of the Pavilion and the front of the building will sit behind the existing boundary wall (reduced in height) and planting. The design has been carefully considered to respect existing properties. The ridge height is approximately 2.3m (less than a storey) above the existing height of the adjacent terraced housing and the upper floor is within the mansard roof space, a common feature of buildings in the Clifton area.

Images can be found above.

How many affordable homes will be provided?

20% of the housing is proposed to be affordable. This is in line with Bristol City Council’s Core Strategy Policy BCS17, and the requirements set out in the Affordable Housing Practice Note 2018 for proposals in the ‘inner west’ part of the city, responding to the significant need in Bristol.

Surely there should be no development here as the site is in a conservation/special historic area?

This is a brownfield site which is already developed as a car park. We have developed plans for the West Car Park that respond sensitively to the setting and context of the site. The intention is a high-quality, sustainable scheme, making use of materials that are sympathetic to the surrounding environment. As Clifton residents since 1836, we want to leave behind a legacy of which we can all be proud.

Government policy sets out to develop, where possible, brownfield sites for new homes as part of a strategy to put previously developed land to productive use, support regeneration of cities, towns and villages, support economic growth and limit the pressure on the countryside. The proposed use will deliver more social and economic benefits than the current car park use.

Building heights will range from 4.5 storeys along College Road to 2.5 storeys within the site in response to the surrounding context. Informal, mews-style homes will be located on the westernmost part of site that borders neighbouring properties. A larger, more formal, apartment block will front on to College Road creating an attractive frontage. High-quality materials will reflect the local vernacular architecture and the site’s heritage setting.

Why are flats included in the scheme?

Bristol City Council’s Urban Living Supplementary Planning Document encourages increased densities of housing where appropriate, particularly on a site such as this which is well-served by public transport and within walking distance of centres including Clifton Village and Whiteladies Road. The apartments are all above the space standards, and most will have their own outdoor space in balconies.

We have undertaken in-depth analysis on the local market and the desire for additional housing/type of housing required in the Clifton area which has informed our proposed mix of differing types and sizes of properties.

Who will develop the site?

Bristol Zoological Society has entered no agreement with a private developer at this stage and we are taking forward the detailed planning application ourselves, to ensure we leave behind a positive legacy development that is sensitive for the site. The intention is for the site to be sold with planning permission.

How sustainable will the new development be?

We wholeheartedly support Bristol City Council’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral and climate resilient. As a wildlife and conservation charity, we also want to give a helping hand to local wildlife.

Sustainability is core to everything we do, including our design for this site. Consequently, the design takes a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction, and includes energy-efficient air source heating. The design of the building fabric aims for a 30-40% carbon reduction above building regulations requirements for reducing heat loss and air permeability. The scheme has also been designed against the Home Quality Mark for the wellbeing, design and comfort of future residents.

Will any of trees be removed to make room for the new development?

An expert arboriculturist completed a survey on the site’s trees. Any trees that replace existing trees will be better integrated into the development’s design layout in line with Bristol City Council’s Tree Replacement Standard. Where trees are being felled to enable development on the site, we are now proposing that these are replaced on site with more, resulting in a net gain of two trees.

How can you ensure that a developer will adhere to high-quality and sustainable design once permission has been granted?

All proposed developments and any proposed changes to developments have to follow the planning process. This proposed scheme follows official planning guidance and professional advice regarding town planning. We are currently investigating the potential mechanism for how we can protect the plans once the ownership passes to a developer. It is important to us that the West Car Park development is one we can be proud of.

Where will staff and visitors park while Bristol Zoo Gardens is still open?

Before the development becomes available, we will relocate office-based support colleagues at Bristol Zoo Gardens to Wild Place in early 2022. This will significantly reduce the need for colleague parking in Clifton.

Visitors parking at Bristol Zoo Gardens mainly use the North Car Park, and use Ladies Mile overflow on peak days. Timed tickets will ensure adequate parking is available relative to the number of visitors and we will continually monitor this.

Once the land is sold, where will visitors park? Are you making any additional provision?

The West Car Park is used largely by colleagues. There are no other planned changes to our parking and our transport consultant has run modelling data for our predicted visitor numbers which has informed our transport strategy for peak periods.

The introduction of timed tickets means that 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. 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, however, we will work with the purchaser of the land to reduce this period of time where possible.

How long will you continue to hold events at the Clifton Pavilion on College Road? Where will venue hire guests park?

This is currently being discussed with our catering partner who operate events at the Clifton Pavilion. Event guests 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.

Won’t the new homes generate more traffic and parking problems?

We have undertaken surveys with expert transport consultants Peter Evans Partnership (PEP) over several years. PEP has calculated that the new scheme will generate less traffic than the current site’s use – once the Bristol Zoo Gardens site closes, traffic will no longer be generated by visitors.

The design includes 45 residential parking spaces, with an additional six spaces retained for use by a neighbouring property.

Promoting sustainable living is important to us and our design also includes the space for secure cycle storage for 159 bikes as well as the provision for electric charging points and a car club space.

Won’t local schools, GP surgeries and other local services be overwhelmed?

The purchaser of the site will be required to make a developer contribution to Bristol City Council to assist with the impact of the delivery of local services.

Has the Society undertaken transport and other relevant surveys?

Yes, the Society has worked with expert consultants to ensure that all relevant information is gathered to inform and support the planning application, including information required by Bristol City Council. We have undertaken detailed and extensive analysis of the sensitive nature of the site and its surroundings. Our work, along with initial feedback from Bristol City Council planning officers, has shaped our proposals.

Have you consulted the local community while developing the designs?

We undertook an extensive programme of Community Engagement before submitting the planning application. This included a consultation pack delivered to over 200 local addresses, (including a leaflet and questionnaire), 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.

165 surveys were completed and we also received feedback through the Public Digital Forums, Community Forums and by phone, letter and email.

The feedback from our Community Engagement was compiled and included in the planning application, within the Statement of Community Involvement.

A summary of the feedback is provided below:

  • Types of homes for the site: 68% of those who answered thought there should be a mix of differently-sized homes, while 26% thought there should be family homes;
  • Affordable housing: affordable housing was rated as a low priority for 36%, and a high priority for 33%;
  • Sustainability: 68% said sustainability was a high priority for them for the scheme;
  • Design: 52% said we hadn’t got the design right, 25% said we had, and 21% didn’t know;
  • Character of the area: 92% said it was a high priority for them, that the design should be in keeping with the character of the area.

More information on the feedback provided during our programme of Community Engagement can be found at the bottom of this page.
As a result of feedback following submission of the planning application, further changes have been made to the block on College Road and a revised scheme submitted in July 2021. The revised scheme includes a reduction in height by one storey to the northern section of the building, with the building stepping back from the road, allowing additional planting and enabling further private amenity space. Additional tree planting is now also proposed within the development to improve & enhance ecology and biodiversity.

When and how frequently are you holding Community Forums?

These are held on a regular basis, including before, throughout and after the Community Engagement phase, and before submission of the planning application to Bristol City Council. Future Community Forums will include updates on the application and will continue to be held regularly.

Who is invited to Community Forums?

Local resident groups most directly impacted by the application, as well as local ward councillors, and representatives of local and other organisations, such as the Bristol Civic Society.

I’m a local resident, can I attend the Community Forum meetings?

These meetings are not aimed at individuals but are for local resident and other groups as well as local ward councillors, all of which represent local residents.

Neighbours in the local area were contacted via a leaflet drop from 10 February with the opportunity to complete a hard copy survey and attend a Public Digital Q&A Forum.

Have you sought Bristol City Council guidance in preparing this planning application?

Yes, it is important that we worked closely with Bristol City Council to ensure that the application is well considered and right for the local environment. We have had pre-application discussions with planning officers which have shaped our proposals.

When did you submit the planning application for the West Car Park?

The planning application for the West Car Park was submitted to Bristol City Council in early April 2021 and a revised scheme was submitted in July 2021.

When was the planning application determined?

The planning application was determined on 22 September 2021 by Bristol City Council development control committee who voted to approve our application.

Why don’t you wait and submit this planning permission as part of the wider planning permission for Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The application for the West Car Park is the first phase of our new strategy to safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society. The sale of the site 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. We have not appointed a design team to work on the main site at this stage and it is important to note that 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 site in terms of design.

When do you plan to close Bristol Zoo Gardens to visitors?

Bristol Zoo Gardens will remain open to visitors until late 2022. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.

Once, and if, planning permission is granted, how quickly do you expect Bristol Zoological Society to sell the land, and do you know how quickly the building work will start?

We intend to begin marketing the site as soon as possible, with the aim of securing a sale after planning permission is granted. Our hope is that we will secure a sale by the end of 2021 in order to deliver the first phase of the new Bristol Zoo.

Can you guarantee that the plans won’t change once the land is sold?

All proposed developments and any proposed changes to developments have to follow the planning process. This proposed scheme follows official planning guidance and professional advice regarding town planning. We are currently investigating the potential mechanism for how we can protect the plans once the ownership passes to a developer. It is important to us that the West Car Park development is one we can be proud of.

How are you planning to ensure that build noise and other related building work disruption is kept to a minimum?

Any contractors will work within the agreed hours set by Bristol City Council and take extensive noise and dust mitigation measures whilst on site. This will be monitored regularly.

There will be a Construction Management Plan in place, setting out how the development will be constructed and how any rights of access are maintained during the construction phase.

Find out more


The planning application for the West Car Park was submitted to Bristol City Council in early April 2021 and a revised scheme was submitted in July 2021. On 22 September 2021 approval for this application was granted by a Bristol City Council development control committee.

We have provided more information on our response to the feedback gathered during our programme of Community Engagement. A copy of the letter sent to those who provided feedback directly can be found below.

View an accessible version of the letter here.

You can email any questions you may have to bristolzoo@jbp.co.uk.

Consultants JBP are supporting the Bristol Zoological Society team on the planning application. Please see a link to our privacy policy and how we are using your data.

Latest news