Campaigners warn against restoration of London Zoo's iconic aviary

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Campaigners have warned the “special significance” of London Zoo’s Snowdon Aviary could be damaged by a planned restoration.

The Grade II* listed structure, inspired by the movement of flying birds, opened in 1965 and is visible from Regent’s Canal and Primrose Hill but has fallen into disrepair.

It was put on Historic England’s At Risk Register last year. It will be converted into an enclosure for colobus monkeys, with the mesh covering replaced and an education centre built.

The birds currently there will move to other aviaries on site and to other zoos, with new bird species introduced to live alongside the monkeys.

The renovation is estimated to cost £7.8 million with £4.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

But members of Regent’s Park Conservation Area Advisory Committee have objected, saying the “location, scale and character” of the proposal is “harmful” to the aviary.

 “The collection of new buildings would clutter the setting of the aviary and harm its special significance and the special character of the listed parks and of the conservation area,” they said. “Taken together the harm to the aviary from the proposal would be such that public benefit of its renovation would be seriously undermined.”

The application will go before the planning sub-committee at Westminster council tonight. The idea for the aviary was conceived by photographer Lord Snowdon, ex-husband of Princess Margaret, and designed by architect Cedric Price.

Professor David Field, zoological director at London Zoo, said he was “disappointed” with the objection.

“The plans for the aviary will improve its use as an important habitat for our animals and serve as an educational centre for the millions of visitors who come to the zoo to be inspired by wildlife, while being wholly sensitive of its heritage status and prominent viewpoint — from both Primrose Hill and the Regent’s Canal,” he said.

“Working closely with residents and community groups, attending regular meetings, inviting community groups to the zoo, and issuing newsletters to neighbours, we have sought to ensure that everyone has been kept abreast of our plans and has had opportunity to ask about us the developments. 

“We’ve spoken with the conservation advisory committee to address their queries.” Council planning officers have recommended the proposals are given conditional planning permission.

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