Zoo and animal rescue centre plans in Cookham turned down

A meerkat (stock image)
Cookham Zoo, which opened last May, is home to meerkats and other rescue animals

A planning application from a zoo and animal rescue centre has been turned down because it may cause "harm" to the Green Belt.

Wildway Wildlife Ltd applied for temporary permission to operate a "small mini zoo and animal education centre" on land at Lower Mount Farm near Cookham, Berkshire.

Cookham Zoo has an unpaid team of about nine people and about 70 animals.

Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council refused the retrospective application.

Its finding follows an earlier decision to refuse the zoo a license.

The site opened on Long Lane last May, and applied for temporary planning consent until New Year's Day 2026.

Its animals include meerkats, ring-tailed lemurs, royal pythons, and Czechoslovakian wolfdogs.

Noise concerns

The applicant argued that the zoo benefited from "very special circumstances" which allowed development in the Green Belt.

It pointed out that the application site was within an existent commercial farm and farm shop that already served the public, and would provide local employment.

Its operators also said it would make use of "poor quality agricultural land", and visitor numbers would be controlled via online ticket sales.

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 the metal containers, fencing, and hard surfacing would be "alien" to the surrounding open farmland.

They also cited noise and parking concerns, and a lack of "enhancements" to biodiversity.

In total 45 letters of objection were received, though a further 72 wrote in support.

One resident said: "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."

But others raised noise complaints, including one neighbour who said: "There are noises that come from this site - animals and event noises - which are not acceptable."

The zoo is expected to appeal the decision.

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