TOP-LEVEL talks between the management team of a major South Cumbria tourist attraction and the council it had accused of “constant harassment” were held yesterday.

Representatives from South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton met with Phil Huck, executive director of Barrow Borough Council, at Barrow Town Hall, following a long-running public spat between the attraction and the local authority.

The meeting, which the Evening Mail understands was about how the zoo would operate in the future, was set up as part of an effort to calm the ongoing dispute between both parties and open dialogue.

It comes after the zoo made the shock announcement last month that it was to close, claiming the decision was forced on them after the council judged some of its public walkways to be “rotten” and in breach of public health and safety.

The zoo disputed the claim, saying Barrow Borough Council had harassed them in a “heavy-handed approach” over the issue.

Frieda Rivera-Schreiber, Karen Brewer, Paula Mason, David Armitage and John McIntosh attended yesterday’s meeting on behalf of the Dalton attraction.

A post on the South Lakes Safari Zoo Facebook page last night said: "We had our meeting this afternoon with Barrow Borough Council chief executive and one other director along with a legal officer and head of the environmental health department.

"Whilst we were prevented from asking any of the questions we had on our list that needed resolution, there was an agreement to meet again.

"Meanwhile, we are grateful for all the independent signatures on petitions that you set up and encouragement you gave to get us this meeting, without which it would never have taken place.

"Whilst no progress was made today on the concerns of our staff we remain optimistic that our issues will be listened to in the future."

The zoo has confirmed it will remain open in January.