THE founder of South Lakes Safari Zoo is seeking an investigation into the activities of a council that refused to grant him a licence.

David Gill, pictured, is applying to the courts for a judicial review into the actions of Barrow Borough Council and Government zoo inspectors over the last five years.

He claimed more than £500,000 of public funds had been spent on activities which he said had damaged the standing, image and financial viability of the zoo.


Mr Gill had been the licence holder of the Dalton attraction since it opened in 1994 until the council’s licensing committee refused an application. Alongside that refusal earlier this year, a closure order was made, casting the future of the attraction into major doubt.

It managed to stay open as Mr Gill used legal channels to appeal the decision while a newly-formed operating company – Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd – applied for a licence of its own.

In May, Barrow Borough Council’s licensing committee approved that application, giving the company a four-year licence to operate the zoo without any involvement from Mr Gill.

But less than a month on from that decision, Mr Gill has said he is applying to the courts for a judicial review.

In a television interview he said a review could help to clear his name.

In a statement, he said: “It is our view and that of our legal advisors, along with other DEFRA Inspectors that the actions and policy of Barrow Borough Council and its paid DEFRA appointed advisors is not consistent with the actions and behaviour of other local authorities and DEFRA inspectors in the UK.

“It is our submission that the council, its employees and DEFRA inspectors have not acted in a fair and balanced manner in the way reports are written.

“Facts are presented without clarification or quantifying explanations with examples of the standards applicable, or reference to other factual evidence from similar zoos.”

He said it would have been better and more effective for the council to have worked with the business to achieve joint aims

Mr Gill and the zoo came under intense national scrutiny after council meeting papers, which were made public, included a detailed catalogue of nearly 500 animal deaths – some in gruesome circumstances – that had occurred at the zoo over the last four years.

Mr Gill has said that the number of animal deaths was not alarming or shocking and was completely normal and natural at a zoo.

Barrow Borough Council said this week that it did not wish to comment.