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Appeal: ‘Isolated’ lion enclosure and dwelling refused near Chipping Norton

Lion enclosure / Shutterstock: 591649358

Plans for a lion enclosure and associated dwelling in west Oxfordshire have been refused after an inspector found no evidence for the special circumstances required to permit new isolated development in the countryside.

The proposal sought permission for a new lion enclosure and detached dwelling in open countryside at Heythrop Zoological Gardens near Chipping Norton. But both local and national policy require special circumstances to justify new homes in open countryside, on the grounds that homes distant from services and facilities lead to an over-reliance on cars.

The appellant argued that the home would have other “non-residential functions”, including acting as a “new business headquarters” for the zoological gardens. It would also add new facilities to the zoo, such as a baby animal room and specialist library. He stated that a permanent building would be required to supervise the lion enclosure because employing new staff to operate CCTV would be “impractical”.

Inspector G P Jones was not persuaded by the appellant’s statement, stating that it was “unclear why the presence of one dwelling next to a quite extensive enclosure would provide better monitoring than CCTV”. He added that no evidence had been presented to explain why the proposed “non-residential functions” could not be carried out in an existing nearby building.

The appellant stated that the scheme’s design would attempt to mimic the appearance of an African hunting lodge. Jones noted the “discordant fenestration” and varied roof forms this would entail. He ruled that although there would be no buildings in close enough proximity to provide an immediate architectural context, the design would still be “out of keeping with the elegant character of the general area”.

In the planning balance, Jones noted the scheme’s animal welfare benefits, along with the modest economic and cultural contributions it would make. However, he ruled that the isolated location and “conspicuous design” carried greater weight. The appeal was dismissed.

The inspector's report - case reference 3173157 - can be read here.

Image credit | Shutterstock