Team appointed to design the new future of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site

A team of leading architects, designers and heritage experts have been appointed by Bristol Zoological Society to help take forward plans for the redevelopment of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

The multi-disciplinary team is led by award-winning Penoyre & Prasad architects, working with LUC landscape architects and heritage and conservation specialists Alan Baxter.

The appointments follow the announcement last year that Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and operates Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, intends to sell the Bristol Zoo Gardens site to safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society and relocate Bristol Zoo to the Wild Place Project site to create a new world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England.

Penoyre & Prasad have won over a hundred architectural awards, including RIBA National Awards, and are known for prestigious, forward-thinking projects in sensitive locations; recent examples include Wolfson College Oxford, and Bath Quays South.

Penoyre & Prasad are particularly renowned for their environment-first philosophy and are a natural partner given the importance that Bristol Zoological Society is placing on ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

Specialists have also been appointed to provide additional expertise including the arboriculturist Wotton Tree Consultancy, construction engineers Price & Myers, sustainability and building services consultancy Max Fordham, and law firm DAC Beachcroft. Experts from Savills Bristol have been appointed to support the proposals through the planning and marketing of the site.

Bristol Zoological Society will lead a planning application for a residential-led scheme to redevelop the Bristol Zoo Gardens site given its central and sustainable location in Bristol. Fundamental to the development of a scheme for the site will be the importance of good quality, eco-friendly low-carbon homes, largely in areas where there are already built structures on the site. In addition, the green space at the heart of the site will be enhanced to encourage greater biodiversity with consideration of public access to the gardens beyond the Clifton Conservation Hub that is already planned.

A period of public consultation will begin over the summer when Bristol Zoological Society will be meeting with, and listening to feedback from, a range of interested groups including near neighbours and Clifton residents.

Francesca Fryer, Director of Transformation at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “It’s an exciting time for us, we have a clear direction and are pleased to have appointed a strong design team who can help us realise our ambitious plans in the best possible way.

“We are looking forward to listening to all our stakeholders, including residents, and will involve them in shaping our plans. We will then share more detailed plans for the Clifton site for consultation later this year as well as updates on our exciting vision for the new Bristol Zoo at the Wild Place Project site.”

She added: “We realise the significance and importance of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site, which is why we are leading the planning process ourselves, and we want to ensure that we create an exemplar for environmentally and socially sustainable development that Bristol can be proud of and showcase to other cities across the UK.”

Sunand Prasad, Founder and Principal of Penoyre & Prasad, commented: “We are excited and proud to have been selected to develop a scheme for the future redevelopment of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site.

“Home of the fifth oldest zoo in the world, it is a site with deep meaning and so many shared memories for Bristolians. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to help shape its future with an exemplary design based on the indivisibility of humans and the natural world.”

Bristol Zoological Society’s Chief Executive, Dr Justin Morris, said: “We have openly spoken about our plans for Bristol Zoological Society and our intention to sell the Clifton site with planning consent for a sensitive residential-led scheme.  

“We have received a range of proposals for the site from interested parties. We remain committed to our exciting new strategy and our thoroughly-considered plans which have come about following an extensive strategic review last year. However, the appointment of the design team for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site represents the beginning of a conversation to ensure that the future redevelopment of the site is the best it can possibly be for Bristol.”

Bristol Zoological Society recently launched its new Strategy to 2035, setting out its commitment for wildlife to be part of everyone’s lives and re-affirmed its mission of saving wildlife together.

This new strategy will ensure that Bristol Zoo continues to exist for generations to come, offering millions more people the opportunity to experience the magic of a new Bristol Zoo, in its new home at the Wild Place Project site.

Bristol Zoo Gardens, in Clifton, will close to the public in late 2022 and Wild Place Project will remain open throughout, until it becomes the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.

To find out more about how Bristol Zoological Society is safeguarding its future, click here.



Q&A

Why are you selling the Bristol Zoo Gardens site?

The Society intends to sell the Bristol Zoo Gardens site to safeguard the future of Bristol Zoological Society and relocate Bristol Zoo to the Wild Place Project site to create a new world-class zoo for Bristol and the West of England.

More information on our Strategy to 2035 can be found here.

As a charity it is important that we ensure that the sale of our site allows us to achieve best value and deliver our charitable benefits for the long-term, specifically our mission of Saving Wildlife Together. We continue to believe that a residential-led scheme on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site is the best way to do this.

The funds raised are not only to enable the delivery of the first phase of the development of the new Bristol Zoo but also to increase and grow our education and direct conservation programmes.

What are you planning for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site?

We are in the early stages of developing a design for the residential-led scheme for the Clifton site.

The redevelopment of the Bristol Zoo Gardens site represents an extraordinary opportunity to make a significant contribution to address the combined housing, climate and ecological crises.

The site is in a central and sustainable location and we are committed to creating a scheme that provides:

  • Good-quality, eco-friendly, low-carbon homes largely in areas where there are already built structures on the site.
  • Enhanced green spaces to encourage greater biodiversity, with consideration of public access to the gardens beyond the Clifton Conservation Hub that is already planned.
  • We want to ensure that we create an exemplar for environmentally and socially sustainable development that Bristol can be proud of and showcase to other cities across the UK.

What is the Clifton Conservation Hub?

The ‘Clifton Conservation Hub’ will be 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.

When will we find out more?

There will be a period of public consultation which will begin over the summer when Bristol Zoological Society will be meeting with, and listening to feedback from, a range of interested groups including near neighbours and Clifton residents.

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

How can I 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. It is important that staff, volunteers, Bristolians, and zoo visitors, Members and supporters contribute to the exhibition space within the new Clifton 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.

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

As part of our extensive strategic review in 2020, we explored other options for the Clifton site, which included other types of visitor attraction and different types of zoos. Working with professional advisors we do not believe that any will be viable or sustainable over the long-term on the Clifton site.

For many years Bristol Zoo Gardens, at only 12 acres in size, has been struggling with fundamental and persistent challenges. Namely the size of our site, declining visitor numbers and restricted parking.

Since our announcement last year both zoos have been closed for a further three months as a result of the national lockdown. In addition our parking issues have been further amplified following the settlement of a judicial review brought by Downs for People against Bristol City Council, meaning that from 2024 onwards the North Car Park at the Zoo will only be able to be used by people visiting the Downs.

Have you been involved in developing the OurWorld Bristol concept?

No, in May 2021 a concept was launched by an independent group of people for an alternative future for the Bristol Zoo Gardens site involving an augmented reality experience, called OurWorld Bristol.

We have received a range of proposals for the site from interested parties including the OurWorld concept.

As a charity it is important that we ensure that the sale of our site allows us to achieve best value and deliver our charitable benefits for the long-term, specifically our mission of Saving Wildlife Together. We continue to believe that a residential-led scheme on the Bristol Zoo Gardens site is the best way to do this.

We remain committed to our exciting new strategy and our thoroughly-considered plans which have come about following an extensive strategic review last year.

More information on our Strategy to 2035 can be found here.

Penoyre & Prasad projects: Snape Maltings - image by Peter Cook (left) and Bath Quays, South - image Barry Simpson (right).


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