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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Zoo owner asks if expansion decision was 'political'

SOUTH Lakes Wild Animal Park owner David Gill has hit back at opponents of his plan to double the size of the attraction.

Last week, Barrow Borough Council’s planning committee chose to reject plans for a large extension to be made to the zoo.

Councillors made the decision that they were minded to refuse the plans after expressing fears about the size of the expansion and potential traffic problems, which they felt could be created by visitors accessing the park using Melton Terrace.

Mr Gill said he feared the refusal was politically motivated after the plans were initially backed by the former Conservative-led council two years ago.

Barrow Borough Council is now under Labour control.

He said in an email to the Evening Mail: “In late September 2009 we presented this same full plan to the planning committee in Barrow Council.

“It is exactly as presented to the same committee last week. This was done to get a view before we had to spend the £100,000 it takes to put in the planning application. They approved the plans then 100 per cent with very positive comments made.

“Yet last week it was rejected in the same clear manner, the very same plan.

“The only change made was to the planning committee as it is now a Labour administration and it was Conservative/Independent. So is this a political decision?

“We would never have spent the £100,000 up front if we had this reaction in any way at the presentation of the plans all that time ago.

“It is my impression from the comments made by councillors that they had somehow completely missed the reasoning for this planning application.

“To be concerned about safety is commendable as this is exactly where we have come from with this.

“However the councillors have focused on the wrong place for their decision making in the view of so many commentators.

“The real safety issue is not at the junction of the A590 or the Melton Road, it is simply over the one-and-a-half miles of streets that the route currently takes, affecting over 200 families and the very dangerous crossing of up to 4,000 family members every day over a 60mph road.

“There does seem to be an imbalance in the approach to safety issues biased towards a few householders set well back from the road.

“Also the comments regarding the numbers of cars are a little concerning as maybe the councillors do not realise the numbers quoted are exactly what we experience now but through the extremely narrow most single track route through the town. We need to remove this volume from the town, stop the crossing of the dangerous road and stop blocking the Dalton to Ireleth Road on busy days.

“The impact on the countryside was the reason given for blocking the last car park application in 2006/7 and now the site looks like woodland and is not seen from anywhere.

“The fact is the zoo is there and has been for 17 years, so has the bypass and Marsh’s Plant hire is also established within a few metres of the proposed new buildings. The landscaping plan includes mounds of earth and over 5,000 trees and this will make the site look far more pleasing than now by creating a parkland effect rather than just a field. I feel that the existing site is testament to the ability to integrate a park into the landscape. The councillors have asked for us to look at this again and come to a solution?

“We have been working directly with the Highways Agency and the local planning department for at least four years, we have looked at a number of options for access, for development and for design.

“After all this time the plan submitted is considered by far the best option giving the easiest safest access, the land gives the best design and integration layout. We have compromised in many aspects to find this solution for the benefit of thousands of people who live on the route or visit the park. My project team would be very happy to meet with the planning committee and mediators before the August 23 deadline set to resolve their concerns.”

Councillor Ann Thomson, chairwoman of the committee, said the decision had not been influenced by politics and that councillors were committed to working to resolve the problems they had with the plans.

She said: “I absolutely disagree with Mr Gill, there has been no politics involved in this decision. We do not have an agenda and are not trying to be obstructive. The problem we face is that if the zoo is expanded it will be there for a long time and we have to ensure that the residents and the area are protected if the development goes ahead.

“Both myself and Brendan Sweeney (who is also on the committee) have contacted the council’s assistant director of regeneration Steve Solsby in order to set up a meeting with the Highways Agency before the next committee meeting. We want to get as much information as possible, and we will be speaking to Cumbria Highways as well.

“I would also make the point that most of our members are either new councillors or haven’t been on the planning committee for many years. They have no history with Mr Gill.

“I didn’t speak to any of them before the meeting, and there was no political decision made as this is against our code of conduct.”

Have your say

what money does the zoo bring to the area???? The shops and pubs dont seem to get much trade from the zoo trafic. theres only one place that makes the money. dans got it spot on dalton dont whant the traffic melton dont whant it. The only people that whant it dont live near the zoo. Make every one happy use the roundabout and no one will have to put up with traffic goin past there homes or is that just to easy. jazze jeff well the name says it

Posted by dalton kie on 6 August 2011 at 10:01

Dan, the Melton route would be safer than the current ridiculous trek through dalton, past hundreds of homes on narrow streets.
A small amount of Melton residents are going to be inconvenienced, compared to the hundreds of families currently.
The only thing I think theyre concerned about is the value of their homes dropping.
And would I like traffic going past my house? I live on Abbey Road in Barrow and I can't say it bothers me now.
Have the council actually stopped this to appease the local non celebrity that lives on the proposed route? It wouldn't surprise me.
I hope it finally gets approved and the Melton fuddy duddys finally have something to properly complain about.

Posted by Jazzy Jeff on 4 August 2011 at 21:34

View all 8 comments on this article

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