A POPULAR tourist attraction, which was threatened with closure, has been granted permission to stay open.

Old Down Country Park, in Olveston, received the support of more than 100 local people after it was told by local planning bosses it had to regularise its operations or face closure.

The park was bought by Arron Banks, and his wife Katya, in 2008 and in the last two years the couple, who own Aust-based finance company Brightside Group Plc, have ploughed almost £3 million into renovating it.

The site had previously been used as a country park until 2004 when it closed and was eventually sold to musician Mike Oldfield.

Since Old Down Country Park reopened to the public last spring more than 50,000 visitors have passed through its gates.

But earlier this summer, after one complaint from a neighbour, the Banks were told to reapply for planning permission to operate as a tourist attraction. The permission had apparently lapsed when the estate became residential.

However, after weeks of uncertainty the country park was told last week that the new permission had been granted by South Gloucestershire Council.

It can now operate as a visitor attraction, as well as being used for agricultural purposes and for hosting weddings.

The Banks were also told they could proceed with the refurbishment of the Old Down Manor House and continue their improvement of facilities for visitors.

Arron Banks said: "The park has proved extremely popular since its opening last year and the many farm and exotic animals we have introduced have just added to the overall experience.

"The farm shop and cafe have been very successful too and with the planned extension which will house new toilets, a staff room and an education centre, we can offer so much more.

"We are extremely grateful to all those friends, visitors and locals who actively gave their support to help gain planning approval."