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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dalton zoo boss hits out at council ‘delays’

A ZOO owner has hit out at council officials, saying they are delaying a £5m expansion that would bring much needed jobs to the area.

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FRUSTRATED: South Lakes Wild Animal Park owner David Gill.

South Lakes Wild Animal Park’s owner, David Gill, has launched a Facebook appeal asking people to question why Barrow Borough Council is taking so long to give the green light to work at the park.

Mr Gill said he received a letter from the local authority on Friday saying it was waiting for Cumbria County Council to give the all-clear to plans for a minor entrance to a car park, which is part of the expansion.

He said the expansion would “give people and animals more space” as well as introducing new animals to the zoo, such as wolves, rhinos and zebras.

The zoo founder said he has been “jumping through hoops” since he put in the planning application in 2009.

In July last year, the plans were initially rejected by Barrow Borough Council’s planning committee – Mr Gill appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which ruled in his favour in February.

In May he gave the council a report on how he would fulfil conditions it had put on granting the application.

Mr Gill, who founded the animal park 18 years ago, said: “Barrow Borough Council make it very, very hard for us.”

Since the plans are taking so long to be approved the contractors for the building work have had to be let go to work on other projects, he said.

He estimated the delays had cost him £200,000 and said he was baffled as to why the plans had not yet been fully approved “when the zoo brings something so successful that is bringing people to the area”.

Mr Gill said: “People are desperate for jobs. Over 100 people would have been employed by contractors, doing the fencing and at the zoo. What are the council doing to make it better for everybody?

“The problem is we cannot start work until the conditions are fulfilled.”

Jason Hipkiss, planning manager at Barrow Borough Council, said the delays had arisen due to insufficient information on the application. He said the council also had to wait for Cumbria County Council’s decision on the entrance to the car park.

Mr Hipkiss added: “The report only half met the requirements. It’s not that we are holding on to anything. The report was incomplete.”

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