Chester Zoo has submitted planning applications for its £225m Natural Vision project.
Detailed plans for the huge Heart of Africa biodome designed by Proctor and Matthews Architects, together with expansion of the main entrance and car park have been submitted to Cheshire West & Chester Council. Future phases not included in the initial applications may include a hotel and conservation college.
The Heart of Africa building will stand 34 metres high and house an African rainforest-themed tropical sanctuary for a band of Gorillas, a large troop of chimpanzees, Okapi and other species.
Prof Gordon McGregor Reid, director general of Chester Zoo, said: "It has taken a number of years for us to get to this point today and we would like to thank the North West Development Agency and a range of other major stakeholders including the local community and our visitors for their feedback and support.
"For us, a key part of the planning process has been engaging with a number of different organizations together with a series of wide-ranging public consultations in order to gain support.
"The public consultations enabled us to take a view on how the development could help us meet local aspirations and also to address any concerns that may arise.
"We have submitted thoroughly researched and detailed plans which will now go through the normal planning procedures."
The biodome could be open to visitors by 2014. Chester Zoo is advised by Hill Dickinson, Aecom and Barton Willmore.