The House of Lords is scheduled to debate the Zoological Society of London (Leases) Bill at second reading on 10 May 2024. The bill is a private member’s bill sponsored by Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Conservative). The government supports the bill and has supplied explanatory notes providing background information on the measure.

1. What would the bill do?

The bill comprises a single substantive clause. This would amend the Crown Estate Act 1961 to increase the maximum term available for leases granted to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for the use of land in Regent’s Park. The increase would be from the current statutorily defined limit of 60 years to 150 years. The bill’s explanatory notes state:

Under the current provisions of the Crown Estate Act 1961, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport grants a lease to the Zoological Society of London to occupy land in Regent’s Park. Under the terms of the Crown Estate Act 1961, the maximum term of the lease can be no more than 60 years. The lease was most recently renewed in 2021 and is currently due to end in 2081.

The amendment to the Crown Estate Act 1961 would not automatically grant the Zoological Society of London a lease of 150 years, but would enable the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to offer a lease of this length in future.

A similar government bill extending the maximum lease available to Kew Gardens to 150 years received royal assent in 2019. This earlier bill was amended at report stage in the House of Lords. A subclause was added to introduce requirements on any new lease, namely that ministers must be satisfied that the lease would not have an adverse impact on the “outstanding universal value of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as a world heritage site”.

The ZSL is an international conservation charitable organisation established in 1826. It opened London Zoo to fellows of the society, and to members of the public with a written ‘order’ from a fellow and payment of one shilling, in Regent’s Park in 1828. The zoo later opened to members of the public without an order from a fellow in 1847. In the 1920s ZSL bought land in Bedfordshire on which it would later open Whipsnade Zoo. Today ZSL runs both London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo.


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