Animals face death after council blocks wildlife park plan

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The Independent Online
Hundreds of birds and animals at a wildlife park in Cornwall may be destroyed this week because of a planning dispute.

Barry and Becy Goddard say they can no longer meet the pounds 1,000-a-week feed bill after plans for a public animal sanctuary were blocked by the local authority.

Mr and Mrs Goddard bought a farm at St Erme near Truro in 1988 and started the sanctuary with 200 birds. Since then it has mushroomed; they now have more than 150 owls, dozens of parrots, monkeys and even rooks and crows hurt on the roads.

Mr Goddard said: 'Our motto has been we never turned anything away - that's been half the problem.' He said they had great support from Carrick Council for the first two years, being allowed to run street collections and encouraged by health officers to house injured birds. He even applied for and got a zoo licence so he could accept a rhesus monkey taken from its owner under dangerous animal legislation. The property was also re-rated, becoming a commercial enterprise incurring business rates.

But as the sanctuary grew, more visitors were attracted, helping to cover rising costs with sponsorship and donations of up to pounds 20,000 a year. The Goddards, who did not have planning permission for a public wildlife park, built a shop and a cafeteria to try to increase the revenue.

Council planners served an enforcement notice and planning permission for a public wildlife park was refused on highway access grounds. The Goddards spent pounds 15,000 on an appeal, lost and were forced to shut the gates at the end of last year.

At the time the Goddards bought the property they say they were told a new road which would solve access problems was due to have been completed this year but plans were shelved.

However, Carrick planners feel the Goddards are architects of their own misfortune. Steve Watson, chief planning officer, said: 'He was told early on that he required planning permission. We were very concerned at the road safety problems.'

The Goddards have sunk their savings of pounds 200,000 into the project and are now pounds 50,000 in debt. The last of their 12 employees was paid off last week.

Mr Goddard agreed a buy-out package with a London collector, who halted the deal at the weekend following the sudden death of his partner. Mr Goddard said: 'We are devastated. We've got enough left to feed for about five to seven days. We're getting offers for some of the rarer species from people hoping to pick up a bargain, but that doesn't help the other 80 per cent. We're desperately looking for a white knight who will take the whole thing.'