Bristol Zoo: Campaigners threaten city council with judicial review amid development plans

What the development would look like at Bristol Zoo Credit: Barton Willmore

Campaigners have threatened to take Bristol City Council to court for a second time, claiming its decision to approve 62 homes on a former Bristol Zoo car park was “unlawful”.

Lawyers representing Clifton & Hotwells Improvement Society (CHIS) have told the authority they will launch a judicial review unless it reverses the planning permission granted in November for 55 apartments and seven houses in the local conservation area.

The letter by solicitors firm Leigh Day, which has been leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, alleges flaws in the planning process.

CHIS claims the report failed to consider crucial information and expert opinion, assessed it wrongly or “misled” the committee by omitting it altogether.

The decision two months ago was the second time that members had approved the scheme for West Car Park in College Road.

That first decision was quashed by a high court judge and sent back to the committee after being declared unlawful amid concerns from local people that the development could affect architectural heritage.

A judicial review concluded that Bristol City Council had not taken Historic England’s advice into account, so the decision to accept the zoo’s plans was not legal.

Following the review, architects made changes to the plans and councillors again voted in favour in November.

Residents were concerned about the impact the development would have on the historic nature of the surrounding area, warning the new homes would leave a “permanent scar”.

The plans were approved last year Credit: Barton Willmore

The latest letter from Leigh Day reads: “We are aware that judicial review is a remedy of last resort and write in the hope that this matter can be resolved without recourse to legal proceedings.”

It said: “The Council has failed to identify and assess the particular significance of the settings of the 16 Grade II listed buildings that may be affected by the proposal."

CHIS claimed the report “materially misled the committee” by failing to state the “significant concerns” of the council’s own conservation experts.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “We can confirm that the council has received a pre-action letter and it is taking legal advice on its response.”

In a blog post on 11 January, mayor Marvin Rees said: “My administration has rightly made building new homes a priority for us, because it’s a priority for our fellow Bristolians.

“Our city is just 42 square miles. Our population grew by more than 10 per cent in the decade to 2021, to 472,000, and is set to rise to 550,000 by the middle of this century.

“19,000 people are on our housing waiting list. Over 1,000 households are living in temporary accommodation. 

“In this context, we need to continue building in (on brownfield) and up (at higher density).

“Otherwise we risk being unable to minimise our sometime need to build out (onto land which has not previously been developed).”

Credit: Local Democracy Reporter Service/Adam Postans