Cookham Zoo’s planning application has been refused by Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council.

Wildway Wildlife Ltd had applied for temporary permission to operate a ‘small mini zoo and animal education centre’ on land at Lower Mount Farm on Long Lane until New Year’s Day 2026.

The applicant said the zoo and animal rescue centre, which opened in May last year, would make use of ‘poor quality agricultural land’.

However, planning officers claimed that the zoo would be ‘harmful’ to the Green Belt’ and refused the retrospective application.

The local authority’s decision, issued on March 21, follows its earlier decision to refuse the zoo a licence.

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A spokesperson for the zoo said they would issue updates in due course.

The zoo, which is run by an unpaid team of around nine people, is expected to appeal the council’s decision.

The site is currently home to more than 70 animals, which have included meerkats, ring-tailed lemurs, royal pythons and Czechoslovakian wolf dogs.

The zoo’s planning application, filed in November 2023, read: “This proposal seeks temporary planning consent to operate a mini zoo which falls under a sui generic use.

“The mini zoo will attract members of the pubic via an online ticketing system to ensure the number of visitors are controlled. Walk-in visitors will not be accepted.”

A planning statement argued that the zoo benefited from ‘very special circumstances’ which allow development in the Green Belt.

It pointed out that the application site was located within an existent commercial farm and farm shop that already serves the public.

The applicant claimed the zoo would provide local employment, while its plans stated that the small amount of traffic to the site would be controlled and that temporary structures could be easily removed.

However, the council’s decision notice read: “No very special circumstances have been demonstrated that would outweigh the harm to the Green Belt, which is afforded substantial weight.”

Planners also said that installing metal containers, fencing and hard surfacing for the zoo would be ‘alien’ to and at odds with the surrounding open farmland.

Other reasons for refusal included noise and parking concerns and a lack of ‘enhancements’ to biodiversity.

In addition, Cookham Parish Council and residents group the Cookham Society, which both objected to the zoo, said the plans did not include adequate arrangements for children to be picked up and dropped off at the site.

In total, 45 letters of objection to the zoo were received, however a further 72 wrote in support of the application.

One resident said: “I understand that it has helped to save and sustain various endangered animals, which will be in danger once again if the zoo were to close.”

Another wrote: “This zoo and the lovely informative talks helped my grandson. Please keep it open.”

However, other people raised noise complaints, including one nearby neighbour who said: “There are noises that come from this site – animals and event noises – which are not acceptable.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “A zoo licence was refused in December 2023, the primary reason being that no planning permission had been granted at the time.

"Planning permission is legally required for the establishment or continuous use of a zoo, it is not possible to grant a zoo licence to a premises without planning permission in place.

“The zoo submitted a retrospective planning application which has been refused in line with council planning policy.

“The reasons for refusal include that the proposals would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt and that the level of activity and noise at the site would likely cause unacceptable harm to the neighbouring area.

“The planning department will now be in touch with the zoo to regularise their planning position.

“The zoo has appealed the decision to refuse a zoo licence and the final hearing is scheduled before magistrates on 11 June 2024.

“The animals remain within the care of the zoo.”