SOUTH Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton is to close on January 9, bosses of the tourist attraction have announced.

A statement was issued after Barrow Borough Council ruled all wooden public walkways must be shut with immediate effect due to concerns about safety.

The decision was made at a meeting of the Licensing Regulatory Committee - prompting zoo spokesman Karen Brewer to say the attraction would be 'effectively closed'.

She said: "In effect if you close the walkways you are closing the zoo.

"We would be closing the only access areas to the natural park. You have been round to see the area and in effect you would be closing us."

Who do you blame for the closure?

The council

The zoo management

A further statement added to the zoo's Facebook page said: "Safari Zoo is to close its doors to the public from 9th January 2016.

"Due to decisions made by Barrow Borough Council today and in the past year the management have been forced by councillors and officers into a situation where they decided to close the Zoo. 

"It is a difficult decision to make but the Management of the Zoo have no alternatives available to continue. We assure everyone that the zoo is safe and there is no evidence whatsoever to say otherwise. Further detailed information about the situation will be released when authorised."

Just after midnight, a subsequent post was made on the zoo's Facebook page. 

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

The post went on to further accuse the council, and added: "We are being subjected to an unprecedented attack and attempt to undermine our credibility and professionalism at every chance created."

On Friday afternoon, the council issued a response to the zoo's comments. 

It said: "On 17 and 18 November 2015, a periodical inspection involving three DEFRA zoo inspectors was carried out at South Lakes Safari Zoo. 

"This inspection team included the current head of the zoo expert committee.

"This inspection team will shortly be producing their final report concerning their inspection which will be the subject of a review early in the new year.

"However, the inspection team raised three particular areas of concern which it was felt needed to be addressed immediately. 

"This was the reason for the Licensing Regulatory Committee being convened to consider those issues on 17 December 2015. 

"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 (number 21) 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 recent November 2015 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 (set by the Licensing Regulatory Committee) 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 yesterday.

"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."