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Eagle Heights owner fears closure of animal park
A ZOO keeper claims he has been given an ultimatum by a council to get rid of his animals or face closure.
Eagle Heights owner Alan Ames has been told he needs to upgrade his wildlife park’s perimeter fence because he has potentially dangerous animals on site such as cheetahs and a camel.
Sevenoaks District Council met with Mr Ames on Thursday (Mar 25) following a routine Defra inspection which concluded his current fence needs upgrading before his zoo licence expires in two years time.
But the council has told Mr Ames he is unlikely to get planning permission to put up the type of fence required, as the zoo falls on green belt land in Eynsford.
However it says he would not need a fence if the animals were no longer on the site and the park reverted to its original use as a bird of prey centre.
If Mr Ames does not comply, the council says it could be forced to close the Lullingstone Lane site to the public.
The first of the animals, a cheetah named Savannah, arrived three years ago and since then two more cheetahs have been brought in as well as a caiman.
Mr Ames, who visits around 100 schools each year lecturing on his work, says he has no idea where the animals would go if the park lost its licence.
He said: "This is incredulous, it's come out of the blue.
“The will to carry on is slowly being beaten out of me.
“I’ve spent the last 14 years trying to do something useful and educate people and now I don’t know what to do.”
He added: “I’m an expert in my field and I’m treated like a cretin.
“Sevenoaks District does not deserve Eagle Heights. This should be the environmental jewel in their crown and it isn’t.
“If the council wants a war they can have one.”
A council spokesman said: “The council is keen to see this valuable tourist attraction continue in the district and will work closely with the owners to try and secure the centre's ongoing viability within the limits of the legislation applicable to zoos.
"If Eagle Heights failed to comply with conditions specified within its Zoo Licensing Act, then ultimately the council has the power to direct that Eagle Heights or parts of it be closed to the public, but it is hoped that the council and the owners of Eagle Heights will continue to work together to ensure Eagle Heights complies fully with the licence conditions."
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