Breaking news: Zoo licence granted by councillors after seven hour meeting
The future of a controversial zoo has been secured for the next four years during a crucial meeting today.
Cumbria Zoo company ltd was granted a licence to operate south lakes safari zoo by members of Barrow Borough Council's licencing regulatory committee.
But directors of the new company, formed in January, have been told they must meet a long list of conditions not risk breaching their licence.
New curator of Dalton zoo revealed to be zoo consultant Andreas Kaufmann. He had refused job offer last year under leadership of David Gill.— Caroline Barber (@CBarberNWEM) May 9, 2017
Cumbria Zoo boss Karen Brewer said it felt 'liberating' to finally be in control of the Dalton attraction's destiny.
"This is the first time that I can sit before you and give you my own thoughts rather than those of my former employer.
"It feels like all the hard work of the last 17 weeks have finally paid off.
"It also feels liberating to be in control of the destiny of the zoo," she added.
The decision was made following a site visit to the zoo this morning and a tense six hour meeting at Barrow Town Hall.
Cumbria Zoo boss Karen Brewer says she is free today to speak up for zoo - and no longer has to reflect thoughts of David Gill.— Caroline Barber (@CBarberNWEM) May 9, 2017
Written evidence was read out from former zoo employee James Potter while a representative from the Captive Animal Protection Society also urged councillors to reject the licence application.
But Cumbria Zoo directors attempted to allay fears for the welfare of animals with the introduction of the firm's new curator; Austrian zoo consultant Andreas Kaufmann.
Mr Kaufmann confirmed he had been offered a job at Dalton zoo last year but had turned it down because he did not want to work under the leadership of its founder David Gill.
He said: "The main difference now is that there are professionals in place who cooperate with each other and know the value of expert veterinary advice.
"Now, there is nobody ignorant or non-educated above these decisions."
Licensing committee chairman Cllr Tony Callister says council documents never intentionally mislead.— Caroline Barber (@CBarberNWEM) May 9, 2017
A report by government zoo inspectors following a visit to the site in January raised serious concerns about conditions for animals at the zoo.
An audit of post mortems carried out over the past four years also revealed that almost 400 had died - of causes including emaciation, exposure and poor animal husbandry.
A fresh zoo inspection carried out in March found significant improvements had been secured under the running of Cumbria Zoo Company.
The inspection team said the new firm met all requirements necessary for a licence to be granted.
The fate of Dalton zoo is set to be decided today - cllrs are meeting to vote on whether to award a licence to Cumbria Zoo Co. @NWEMlive— Caroline Barber (@CBarberNWEM) May 9, 2017
Documents supplied to the meeting reveal Cumbria Zoo Company is now set to enter into an eight year lease to take legal control of the attraction.
A full buy out option also exists subject to the directors securing finance.
The new licence will come into force once David Gill withdraws a pending appeal over the council's refusal to renew his licence.
Labour parliamentary candidate for Barrow and Furness, John Woodcock, claimed the decision made was the wrong one.
He said: "The licensing committee's hands were tied by national legislation that is simply not fit for purpose, but this is the wrong decision that will leave a major cloud over the zoo and doubts over animal safety.
"No senior figure who worked under David Gill when all those animals died should be allowed anywhere near a zoo ever again. Unfortunately the general election was called before the debate I was seeking over the inadequacy of the laws surrounding zoos, but if I am re-elected on 8 June I will be pushing for tougher safeguards that protect animal welfare early in the next parliament."