OWNERS of a controversial North-East petting farm at the centre of an E coli investigation have withdrawn their application for a zoo licence.

Tweddle Children’s Animal Farm, in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, where traces of the potentially deadly bacteria were allegedly found, has also removed some of its more exotic animals.

Peter and Denise Wayman had previously kept buffalo, camels, a monkey and racoons, along with farmyard animals.

But an investigation into claims of poor animal hygiene practices revealed they did not have the zoo licence required.

They submitted an application to Durham County Council for the correct paperwork and a report was due to be published this week ahead of next week’s licensing committee.

But the authority now says the application is no longer on the agenda for discussion.

Terry Collins, director of neighbourhood services at Durham County Council, said: “The council has received notification from Mr and Mrs Wayman that they wish to withdraw their application for a zoo licence for Tweddle Farm.

“An officer visited the premises on Monday and has confirmed that the majority of zoo animals have now been rehomed and any remaining animals classified under zoo licence legislation have been removed from viewing.

“The council therefore considers that the premises no longer need to be licensed as a zoo. Mr and Mrs Wayman have agreed to give the council a list of which animals have been re-homed and where they have gone.”

The attraction allows young children close access to animals and has been popular with families and school groups.

Earlier this year, the council’s environmental health officers and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited the farm following an undercover investigation by the Captive Animals Protection Society.

The charity said it had found traces of E coli and dead animals decomposing near a children’s play area.

It also said the bodies of dead animals, including a meerkat and tortoise, had been stored in a freezer on top of food for animals, while staff working with animals were working in the cafe wearing the same clothes.

The council said no traces of E coli were reported but headteachers who may have been planning school visits were warned about its investigation.

Mr and Mrs Wayman were not at the farm yesterday and were unable to disclose which animals are still available for children to pet and feed, or make any further comment.