BARROW town hall officials have defended their decision which prompted a zoo to announce it is closing. 


- Zoo criticises council's handling of licensing issues

- Council defends decision 

- Evening Mail calls for both parties to hold clear the air talks

- MP hopes solution can be found

- Petition launched to stop zoo closure 

Barrow Borough Council released a statement on Friday in response to South Lakes Safari Zoo accusing the authority of harassing the zoo for the past two years. 

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It followed a decision by the council's licensing regulatory committee on Thursday, when councillors ruled that all wooden public walkways at the Dalton attraction must be shut with immediate effect due to concerns over safety.

Zoo management said that doing so would mean the zoo would effectively have to close - and they later issued a statement saying it would indeed close on January 9. 

Is the zoo closure permanent?

The zoo has not made clear how long it intends to shut for in any of its statements. 

But staff said on Friday that making a booking for February would not be an issue, suggesting that any closure would only be a temporary measure. 

What has the zoo said about the council?

A lengthy statement posted on the zoo's Facebook page in the early hours of Friday fiercely criticised the council's handling of licensing issues at the attraction. 

It concluded: "Any suggestion we do not care or we do not action issues with speed and energy is a lie. 

"We are being subjected to an unprecedented attack and attempt to undermine our credibility and professionalism at every chance created. 

"The management team cannot work under these conditions and hence the decisions made."

The zoo also claimed the council's approach was creating fear among its staff.

The zoo statement said: "We feel we have been constantly harassed by the council for the past two years, sent enforcement orders before even telling us of any issue to be enforced, pressurising change, creating confusion and fear within the staff and breaking down morale and confidence in the zoo team. 

"We believe the council has created an atmosphere that increases risks because of the pressure and fear of prosecution at every turn they make."

What has the council said?

On Friday night, the council issued a response to the zoo's comments - and said the attraction had the right to appeal to the courts, if it wished.

The council said three government inspectors, including the head of the zoo expert committee, carried out a standard inspection at the zoo on November 17 and 18 

They are producing their final report, which will be the subject of a review early in the new year, but raised three areas of concern they felt needed to be addressed immediately.

The council said: "In particular there was concern that three existing conditions on the zoo’s licence had not been complied with by the required dates.

"One of these conditions related to the public wooden walkways in the zoo and in summary it required the zoo to produce a report by 13 November 2015 to assess concerns about the structural stability of the walkways.

"Concerns about the walkways have been previously raised with the zoo in 2009, 2013 and 2014.

"During the November inspection, the zoo inspectors noticed that some of the wooden posts used to construct the walkways were rotten either at the top or at the bottom.

"When the inspectors asked the zoo if the structural report had been completed, they were told that they had not yet found a contractor to progress the report, despite the deadline having passed.

"Barrow council officers therefore decided that the non-compliance with this, and another two conditions, should go before the next licensing regulatory committee meeting which was held on Thursday.

"At that meeting, council officers recommended with agreement from the zoo inspectors, that the committee elevate the condition relating to the wooden walkways to a direction order with a compliance deadline of 28 days and that the direction order require all wooden walkways and platforms to be closed to the public until the direction order is lifted.

"It should be noted that the zoo have a right of appeal to the magistrates’ court in relation to the committee’s decision, the appeal period being 28 days from the date they receive written confirmation of the committee’s decision.

"The direction order will not actually come into effect until the 28 day period to appeal has expired."

Petition launched to stop closure

Meanwhile, a petition set up to stop the closure of the zoo has already attracted thousands of signatures.  

Kevin Brock, who travels from his home on the Wirral to visit the attraction around four times a year, created the petition on the website 

The 39-year-old dad has asked for the council and the zoo to "work together to reach an amicable solution to protect this well valued community asset and tourist attraction". 

On Friday night, the petition had more than 3,700 signatures. 

Mr Brock said: "I know there are issues between the zoo, its owner David Gill and Barrow Borough Council; it's long established. 

"But I think it's time for the posturing to end.

"One way to help that is to say 'you've got these people here who support you'. 

"So hopefully this shows that they've got support in the wider community. 

"There are people from Florida, Germany, Greece and all over the UK, especially the North West and Cumbria, who have signed it. 

"It's purely to show the level of support that's out there and hopefully things can be fixed between all of them. 

"The zoo is on the doorstep of the area, it brings in valuable tourism."

What has the MP said? 

John Woodcock, Barrow and Furness MP, said he hoped a solution to the problem could be found. 

He said: "I hope the assertions made by the zoo prove to be untrue, which has been the case on occasions in the past.

"Safety should never be compromised at attractions of this kind, but I also hope a way through can be found.

"I also feel for the zoo's many employees whose positions have been thrown into doubt a week before Christmas."