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Our Future FAQs

What are the future plans for Bristol Zoological Society? What is 'Safeguarding Our Future'?

To safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society we are planning to relocate Bristol Zoo to the Wild Place Project site to create a world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England. The new Bristol Zoo will offer spacious, modern facilities, significant growth in our conservation and education work and an innovative and exciting visitor experience. In order to deliver this exciting new vision and to secure the future of Bristol Zoo, the Clifton site will be sold.

Bristol Zoological Society has always been at the forefront of leading the transformation in the way animals are cared for, protected and understood. We want to continue that legacy, now and for decades to come.

What will the new Bristol Zoo be like?

The new Bristol Zoo will be an inspiring, immersive wildlife experience with conservation and sustainability at its heart, where animals will have the space and facilities to thrive. New exhibits will link visitors to our conservation projects around the world and provide the tools for visitors to become conservationists themselves.

Pioneering landscape architects, Grant Associates, have been appointed as lead designers and landscape architects for the new Bristol Zoo. Grant Associates have previously worked on the world-famous Gardens by the Bay in Singapore as well as Bristol Harbourside and the YTL Brabazon project in Filton, Bristol.

The Society has also appointed award-winning architects and urban design practice, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS). FCBS has an international reputation for design quality, for pioneering environmental expertise and a progressive architectural approach. The work of FCBS has frequently been recognised in major industry awards, including winning 55 awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Previous work includes the Bath Abbey Footprint Project, the University of Roehampton Library and a number of projects at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
 

Will you be investing in facilities for visitors at the new Bristol Zoo?

The new Bristol Zoo will be world class. In Phase 1 of our plans we will create a new entrance building, called 'Wild Welcome' which will include a new café and shop. We will be investing in the site and making the visit accessible to all, from wheelchair users to visitors with special needs.

How much will the new Bristol Zoo cost?

Over the course of the next 20 years, we plan to invest £48m into capital development of the new Bristol Zoo. This will be completed in phases, with the first phase estimated for completion in 2024.

Why have you made this decision now? Is it due to Coronavirus?

For many years Bristol Zoo Gardens has been struggling with fundamental and persistent challenges. An inability to meet the changing needs of the animals within the available space and infrastructure, and declining visitor numbers. The Society has made an operating loss in four of the last six years. The impact of COVID-19 has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and how we address the fundamental and persistent challenges that we face in order to save Bristol Zoological Society.

Have you really tested this thoroughly? Is it the only option?

We have been through a very rigorous process to explore a number of options as well as taking independent professional advice from a range of sources to ensure we are taking the best possible course of action for the Society’s future.

Our Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favour of this plan and it has the backing of the Society’s Directors and Chairs of Trustees from the last 20 years, who have helped shape this new vision. Our Shareholders also agreed this plan in December 2020. We recognise that out of adversity comes opportunity, and we know that this is the right thing to do.

Why don’t you open a different type of visitor attraction or venue at the Clifton site instead?

As part of our strategic review in 2020, we explored many other options for the Clifton site, including different types of visitor experience such as botanical gardens and other types of attraction that included animals and wildlife. None of the other options provided a financially sustainable future for the Society and met our charitable mission of ‘saving wildlife together’. This was an extensive and robust process that included expert and professional advice from a range of sources.

When will the move happen?

It is anticipated that the Clifton site would remain open to visitors until late 2022. Wild Place Project will remain open throughout, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.

What will happen to the Clifton site?

In order to deliver the exciting new vision for Bristol Zoo and to secure the future of Bristol Zoological Society, the Clifton site will be sold. We will lead a planning application to ensure the creation of a development that we can all be proud of and to ensure Bristol Zoo Garden’s legacy continues. The planning application will include largely new housing in areas where there are already built structures and the existing gardens will be largely unchanged. We also want to create an ‘urban conservation hub’ in the Zoo’s iconic main entrance building to ensure the heritage and story of the Clifton site will continue to be told. This would become the base of the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, community and conservation programmes, an exhibition of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ heritage and a café.

Could the Society launch a public appeal to save Bristol Zoo Gardens?

We launched the BZS Appeal in spring 2020 and to date it has raised just over £100,000. Whilst we are grateful to our supporters for their generosity, our capital investment shortfall is substantial, and expected to rise to £44 million over 20 years. The Society has also operated at a loss in four of the last six years, and the closure due to National Lockdown in early 2021 has further exacerbated our challenges. The pandemic has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and we must act now to safeguard the Society's future and that future is a new world-class Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place site.

What about the legacy of Bristol Zoo Gardens? Many people have fond memories and it will be missed by everyone.

We launched the BZS Appeal in Spring 2020 and to date it has raised £100,000 including Gift Aid. Whilst we are grateful to our supporters for their generosity, our capital investment shortfall is substantial (£8 million), and expected to rise to £44 million over 20 years. The Society has also operated at a loss in four of the last six years, with a further loss forecast in 2021. The pandemic has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and we must act now to safeguard the Society's future and that future is a new world-class Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place site.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is iconic to Bristol, so why invest in South Gloucestershire?

We need to look beyond local authority boundaries to achieve our conservation mission and to offer the people of Bristol and the West of England, a world-class zoo which delivers on our conservation, sustainability, education and outreach ambitions to help address the climate and ecological emergencies facing us all. Our proposal has the full support of local authority leaders.

Could the Society approach the Government to save Bristol Zoo Gardens – isn’t there a Zoo Animals Support Fund?

Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are not eligible for the Government's Zoo Animals Fund. The Society and other leading charitable zoos have approached Defra for support, and Defra has been kept informed of our current situation. We have explored all options, and are confident our new strategy is the right one to guarantee a future for Bristol Zoo.

How much money would be needed to keep the Clifton site open?

The strategic review shows that the site is not suitable for the changing needs of animals, and visitor numbers are in decline. We are confident that selling the Clifton site will enable us to build a new Bristol Zoo at our Wild Place site that is world-class and fit for the 21st century.

How much money will you make by selling the Clifton site?

Sufficient money will be raised through selling our properties in Clifton and wider fundraising activities to realise our ambitions for a world-class new Bristol Zoo and amplify our conservation, education and outreach programmes.

What will happen to the plant collection at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The existing and much-loved gardens will be largely unchanged. The planning application will include new housing in areas where there are already built structures. The Society will lead a planning application to ensure the creation of a development that we can all be proud of and to make sure Bristol Zoo Garden’s legacy will continue.

Why are you moving Bristol Zoo? Is it related to Animal Welfare or lack of space?

Bristol Zoological Society has always been at the forefront of leading the transformation in the way animals are cared for, protected and understood. We want to continue that legacy, now and for decades to come. The Bristol Zoo Gardens site is only 12 acres in size and over several years the number of large animal species has reduced significantly. By contrast, the new Bear Wood exhibit that opened to critical acclaim at Wild Place in 2019 is 7.5 acres and contains just 4 animal species. This one exhibit is three-quarters the size of Bristol Zoo Gardens. The Wild Place Project site allows us the space to grow in the future.

What will happen to the animals that are currently at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The animals will either move to the new Bristol Zoo or be rehomed to other zoos and aquariums, through a planned and phased process over three years.

What animals will there be at the new Bristol Zoo?

We will be developing an animal species plan, that maximises the impact we can make to the conservation of wildlife. We will also be reaching out to our visitors, members and friends to join the conversation and suggest animals they would like to see.

How will visitors with no cars get to Wild Place Project? Will there be buses to the new Bristol Zoo?

It is important to us as a conservation charity that we are able to offer sustainable transport solutions for our visitors. As part of this, and to ensure that those without cars can visit the new Bristol Zoo, we will work with public transport providers to develop practical solutions. We are in the early stages of planning for the new Bristol Zoo, but there are already plans in place to improve public transport near J17 of the M5 Motorway (linked to the YTL Arena Bristol development) and we will ensure that there are viable transport solutions for visitors to the new Bristol Zoo. More information on the plans for the new Bristol Zoo can be found here.

Does the Society plan to consult with neighbours and local businesses both at Bristol Zoo Gardens (Clifton) and Wild Place Project (Easter Compton/Cribbs Causeway)?

It is extremely important that the Society engages with residents and local businesses in Clifton, at Easter Compton and Cribbs Causeway. The Society will be meeting with local residents and businesses as part of the planning application process to better understand their concerns, hopes and suggestions. It is important to the Society that we are a responsible and good neighbour.

Whilst developing our plans for the West Car Park, we undertook an extensive programme of Community Engagement before submitting the planning application. This included a consultation pack (including a leaflet and questionnaire) delivered to over 200 local addresses , digital exhibition boards and online questionnaire on our website, Facebook posts geographically targeted at Clifton residents, separate meetings with near neighbours, two Public Digital Forums, and regular meetings with the Community Forum. 

More information on our plans for the West Car Park can be found here. 

We will also begin a period of public consultation for the new Bristol Zoo. It is important that we talk with our neighbours, but also those who will be visiting us or using the facilities at the new Bristol Zoo. We are at the very early stages, but more information on our plan for the new Bristol Zoo can be found here.
 
 

The Society launched a strategy document ‘Towards 2025’. Has this now been abandoned?

Yes, 'Towards 2025' was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. The ambitions of our charitable mission remain unchanged, however the way in which we achieve this ambition has changed. The new strategy sees the sale of the Clifton site and major investment in a new world-class Bristol Zoo at the Wild Place site. The pandemic has caused us to radically rethink our plans about the future and changed the way we can now best achieve our mission of ‘Saving Wildlife Together’. A summary of our new strategy can be found here and our full strategy will be published later in the year.

How will the plans enable you to be a more diverse and inclusive organisation, and better represent the people of Bristol?

'Saving Wildlife Together' means working with wider communities when planning the new Bristol Zoo and the education, community and outreach programmes. Proposed activities include use of the urban conservation hub in Clifton as well as work and partnerships within disadvantaged wards and communities. Diversity, inclusion and equity form part of the work of a forward-thinking and world-class zoo.

What are we doing to ensure that our conservation work is more effective and amplified, and are the plans to create stronger and more strategic partnerships?

Our animal species plan for the new Bristol Zoo will consider the conservation impact we can deliver whilst ensuring high levels of engagement and opportunities for formal and informal learning. We will be connecting our visitors to global and local conservation projects, inspiring the next generation of conservationists and providing tools to create ambassadors for change.

What about our Membership / Dual Membership / Annual Pass?

The Membership Team will put plans in place to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. We hope our Members, Annual Pass Holders and Dual Members will be excited by the plans and opportunities for a new Bristol Zoo. We will ensure that we communicate clearly with Members and Annual Pass Holders and encourage their involvement (for example Bristol Zoo Gardens Members sharing their memories for an exhibition). We will ensure that there will be a new and improved Membership/Annual Pass Holder scheme.

Will I get a refund on my Membership? What about Dual Memberships?

The support of our Member community is highly valued and we hope that our Members will be excited by our plans for a world-class new Bristol Zoo.

There will be no immediate change to your Membership, however we anticipate that we will stop selling Membership to Bristol Zoo Gardens in late 2021. You will be able to transfer your Membership to Wild Place Project at that time.

Dual Membership will also cease at this time. We will still be open to visitors to Bristol Zoo Gardens until late 2022, however it would not be fair to sell Memberships that we might not be able to honour for the entire duration of validity.

We will be reaching out to our Members and friends, past and present, to join the conversation and to help shape the new Bristol Zoo. Everyone is invited to join the conversation.

What about Life Memberships?

We have been in touch directly with our Life Members. If you haven't heard from us, please email development@bristolzoo.org.uk.

We have been in touch directly with our visitors who have adopted an animal or bought an Experience with us at Bristol Zoo Gardens. If you haven't heard from us then please email info@bristolzoo.org.uk.

I have emailed you but not had a reply. When can I expect you to reply?

We are currently experiencing a very high volume of enquiries and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Please bear with us during these unprecedented times.

How can we get involved?

We know there is an enormous amount of civic pride in our institution. We will embrace this sense of pride and invite people to join the conversation to help shape the new Bristol Zoo. And it is important that staff, volunteers, Bristolians, and zoo visitors, Members and supporters also contribute to the exhibition space within the new urban conservation hub in the iconic entrance building at the Clifton site. If you would like to get in touch with us regarding the plans to safeguard our future, please email us at future@bzsociety.org.uk.

When will we find out more?

Please check our social media or website for all the latest information or sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch.

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