Northumberland falconry centre owner to fight zoo order at hearing

The owner of a falconry centre who is fighting a council order that he register as a zoo is facing a hearing next month

Falconry Days base near Simonburn in Northumberland National Park - Mark French who runs falconrydays.com
Falconry Days base near Simonburn in Northumberland National Park - Mark French who runs falconrydays.com

The owner of a falconry centre in Northumberland is to go before councillors next month to fight their order that it become a zoo.

Mark French, owner of Falconry Days at Simonburn near Hexham, has been served with a zoo closure direction notice by Northumberland County Council following his refusal to seek a zoo licence.

Mr French, who has collected hundreds of signatures on a petition, will go before the authority’s licensing committee on August 6 to argue why he believes he does not need a licence.

Falconry Days, Northumberland’s number one ranked visitor attraction on the website TripAdvisor, has operated for eight years.

Last October, Mr French was ordered by the council to pay for a zoo licence.

However, he has refused to do so on the basis that his attraction is not, by definition, a zoo, with he claims 95% of activities covered by a different licence.

Mr French also claims small sites are exempt from applying for zoo licences.

He has now been served with the zoo closure direction notice and will be given the opportunity to appear before the council’s licensing and regulatory committee to explain why he believes he does not require a licence.

Mr French revealed he has hired a barrister to accompany him to the hearing and a subsequent magistrates court appeal hearing, if he is unsuccessful.

He has also obtained over 400 signatures on a petition backing his fight which he is to submit to councillors.

Mr French said: “I would rather not be spending £210 (an hour) on a barrister but I am absolutely 110% not going to be bullied by the council.”

The council said it had requested Mr French seek a licence “following a change in the manner in which the premises are being operated.”

Philip Soderquest, acting head of public protection, said: “We remain committed to resolving this situation by agreement. We have advised Mr French, once he is licensed he can apply for a dispensation from some of the requirements of the act and that we may be minded to support any such application.”

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