Decision due on Welsh Mountain Zoo expansion

A final decision on the zoo’s expansion, including a new home for its snow leopards, will be made next week after Conwy’s planning committee backed the proposals against officer recommendation.

The zoo put forward a plan to replace its snow leopard facility with a more up-to-date habitat, which it said would include more suitable breeding habitat for the endangered big cat, as well as raising the zoo’s public profile.

This is proposed for a wooded site next to the existing Himalayan-themed area of the zoo, where red pandas, otters, and south Asian birds are displayed. The site is currently not used by the zoo for displaying animals.

Designed by architect D2, the new enclosure features two timber-built raised viewing platforms over a split-level site, featuring a rock outcrop and a wooded area for the snow leopards. There is also a glazed viewing area for guests.

Conwy planning officers had recommended councillors should be “minded to refuse” the proposal when the council’s committee met last month; officers said the principle of replacing existing zoo buildings was supported, but argued the location of the new-build enclosure “would have a detrimental impact on landscape and on the openness of the green wedge”.

However, committee ruled against officer recommendation and argued the scheme should be approved; they argued the proposal formed as an extension of an existing rural enterprise under planning policy, meaning development would be appropriate in the green wedge; and that the proposal would “improve the welfare of snow leopards”.

Next week, planning committee members will be asked whether to reaffirm the decision to grant planning permission; if this is secured, it will allow development of the new snow leopard enclosure to go ahead.

To enable the expansion, the zoo is also proposing to demolish the existing enclosure, which was built in the 1960s. While the current set-up meets animal welfare criteria, the zoo argued it “no longer suits the requirements for snow leopard habitat”. A separate planning application for the demolition was approved last month.

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