Bristol Zoo former car park could become 'empty piece of asphalt'

The north car park at Clifton Down
Campaign group Downs for People is unable to agree that Bristol Zoo should continue to use the North car park

The car park at a former zoo could become an "empty piece of asphalt" for at least a year.

Bristol Zoo's parking licence for the north car park on Clifton Down will formally end in six weeks.

Opened in 1836, Bristol Zoo shut last September and rebranded as Bristol Zoo Project at its new site to the north of the city.

The Zoo had asked the Downs Committee for permission to continue using the car park until June 2025.

It offered £50,000 for continued use of the car park, as staff and students will continue to occupy the site until March 2025.

But the Downs Committee had to consult campaigners Downs for People, which in 2021 legally challenged whether cars were allowed to park on the parkland.

Due to a High Court decision, they had the deciding factor on if the zoo could continue using the car park.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Downs for People said its members were "unable to agree" on the deal for the zoo to carry on using the car park.

During a Downs Committee meeting on Monday, 13 November, Green councillor Paula O'Rourke said the site might now be used instead by van dwellers.

She said that although £50,000 income from Bristol Zoo would have helped the committee financially, they realised they needed consent from Downs for People.

"Especially as they were claimants in the case. We were never trying to breach the order," said Ms O'Rourke.

She said that once the car park becomes a free space, it may become a "very attractive place" for van dwellers.

An increasing number of van dwellers have been staying on the Downs, leading to complaints from local residents and park users.

In turn, some van dwellers say they have chosen to stay there due to skyrocketing rents in Bristol becoming rapidly unaffordable.

Downs for People said the car park should become "amenity space", but failing that, it should be kept for people who use the Downs, rather than nearby buildings.

They claimed it would be "fundamentally unlawful" for the zoo to continue using the car park.

In a written statement to the committee, a spokesperson said: "While we sympathise with the committee's financial difficulties, Downs for People is unable to agree that Bristol Zoo should continue to use the North car park after the end of this year.

"Such use would be unlawful, and no compelling case has been made for it."

Follow BBC West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: