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Council Leader Writes in Support of Save Chester Zoo Campaign

Published: 8th June 2020 09:22

Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council leader and member for Little Neston, has written to the Secretary of State to share concerns over the future of Chester Zoo.

Chester Zoo

Her letter asks for the decision to introduce legislation to keep Chester Zoo closed indefinitely be reconsidered and confirms that the Council supports the zoo's re-opening plans.

The letter is reproduced below:


There is dismay in Chester, and indeed nationally and internationally, about your decision to introduce specific legislation to keep Chester Zoo closed indefinitely.

I wanted to write to make clear our own risk assessment, given our responsibilities for public and environmental health, of the ability of the zoo to re-open soon. As a council we have taken a cautious approach to re-opening: more so than the government. In my view some of the national decisions to open up facilities have been premature, and without sufficient attention to the local public health risks. We have approached our discussions with Chester Zoo in the same spirit, with public health absolutely paramount.

Officers from our Environmental Health team visited the zoo last Friday and have carefully scrutinised Chester Zoo's plans for re-opening. They have found the zoo's management and staff to be transparent, cautious and assiduous in their approach to keeping the public safe. These plans include only re-opening outdoor spaces and reducing the maximum capacity of the zoo from 20,000 visitors per day to 3,000. The zoo has wide walkways and large open spaces which allow for social distancing, and a robust cleaning regime.

On this basis we are very pleased to support Chester Zoo's re-opening plans.

It is disappointing that this robust local assessment is not reflected at all in the government's approach. Instead a one-size-fits-all approach is taken to all zoos, irrespective of their scale or local context, and with no reference to the views of local public health experts. As a result of your decision, Chester Zoo is now placed in a precarious position, relying on support and goodwill from its supporters across the world, and at risk of redundancies and closure.

There appears no consistency in the government's approach to re-opening facilities.

Chester Zoo is forbidden from opening, and yet the Cheshire Oaks outlet park is required to open - placing huge pressures on our local transport system. We see outdoor spaces being crowded with visitors, promoted by the breakdown of trust in the government's "stay alert" messages, while Chester Zoo can control entry carefully and fully enable social distancing.

I urge you to reconsider this decision rapidly and pass responsibility for overseeing the safe operation of Chester Zoo to its local management, supported by a robust local public health approach.

I am copying this letter to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and local MPs for the Cheshire West area.

Related content:

Can Chester Zoo survive the pandemic?

Save Our Zoo campaign

Donate to the Zoo campaign

Sign the petition


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Dave Carter
At 14:21 on 9th June 2020, Dave Carter commented:
Thank you Louise, excellent letter. Chester Zoo has always been well organised, and we have seen even from the news clips in response to their appeal, that they have social distancing measures already in place, at the entrance booths, and at exhibits. We are members, and we will donate to help them.

In contrast I hadn't realised that Cheshire Oaks was required to open. What a strange thing. I wouldn't go anywhere near there for the foreseeable future. They have not got the infrastructure to ensure social distancing.
Dave Carter
At 14:27 on 9th June 2020, Dave Carter commented:
Perhaps more controversially, I think that this reflects the weakness of the governance structure in England. In Australia this kind of decision would be taken by the state. In the USA, the state or maybe even the mayor of a city. Scotland or Wales could make their own decisions in this regard. English local authorities need many more powers to be devolved to them from the national government.
Tim Wright
At 14:33 on 9th June 2020, Tim Wright commented:
I agree regarding devolution. In fact I am surprised that the Metro Mayors of Liverpool and Manchester haven't formed a bloc with Cheshire West and Cheshire East and demanded they make their own decisions. We are far closer, geographically, to Scotland and Wales than to London. Many decisions being taken in London feel premature for those of us further North.

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