A MAJOR south Cumbria attraction faces an uncertain future after its owner was denied a renewed licence.

South Lakes Safari Zoo boss David Gill was denied a new six-year licence after receiving heavy criticism from inspectors.

The zoo, at Dalton, now has six months to apply for a fresh one.


Inspectors had recommended Barrow Borough Council's licensing committee do not renew the licence following a visit in November 2015 amid ongoing concerns of the suitability of the zoo’s management structure.

They found that the zoo’s operation relied too heavily on Mr Gill, and claimed this had resulted in animal welfare issues, higher than expected animal mortality rates, and placed both staff members and the public in potential danger.

A new condition was added to the licence (Condition 39) in February stating a robust management and staffing structure must be in place in order to allow a new licence be issued, and a special inspection took place in May  to see if this and other conditions had been complied with.

Inspectors at that visit found that ‘the zoo is (was) still being managed directly by David Gill’ and that the management structure in place was not ‘sufficiently robust’

Dr Matthew Brash, a DEFRA inspector and advisor to Barrow’s licensing committee said with Mr Gill in charge, inspectors ‘do not believe the standards are likely to be met’.

A number of new management teams had been forward to inspectors to comply with the conditions, but Dr Brash was critical of them all.

“The single common denominator behind all these changes is that David Gill continues to run this zoo.

“Despite their denials, David Gill has been and still is running this zoo.”

The zoo’s CEO, Karen Brewer, had described the ‘catch 22’ position the zoo was in as it could not  move forward without David Gill as the licence is in his name and the committee had turned down an earlier application to transfer it over to the zoo.

She said: “We have made it clear that David doesn’t appear in the future of the zoo but the licence is in his name so everything has to go through him.”

At the hearing, Condition 39 was escalated to a direction order with a compliance date of November 4.

Zoo representatives did not comment at the hearing after the decision was made.