Chester Zoo’s proposal for its latest attraction, an extensive African savannah habitat next to a range of lodges and safari tents, has been approved by Cheshire West & Chester Council’s planning committee.
The Grasslands would feature giraffes, zebras, ostriches and antelopes, as well as a demolition of the current buildings to deliver 28 lodges, 14 tents, and a restaurant with views across the savannah.
The Grasslands development forms part of the 217-acre Natural Visions Masterplan, which included the £40m Islands development opened in 2016.
Designed by Gillespies, Darling Associates, BDP and North of England Zoological Society, the proposals went before Cheshire West & Chester’s planning committee yesterday with a recommendation to approve, although was not without its objectors due to its location on a Green Belt site next to Moston Road.
The scheme was criticised by councillors and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which said the project represented “inappropriate development”.
However, while objectors spoke out during the committee, a spokesperson for the Zoo said the Grasslands would enable further investment in animal welfare and education into species at risk of extinction.
Grasslands is set to include an African Wetlands Aviary with a flock of flamingos and viewing platform, and a large, open African savannah habitat, containing the Rothschild’s giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, ostrich and Roan antelope.
Next to the savannah, the Zoo is planning a Tsavo experience featuring black rhino and painted dogs, and a Rift Valley area where smaller species can be seen among Kopje rocks, including vultures, aardvarks and warthogs.
Chester Zoo attracts 120,000 visitors each year on education trips, and contains 21,000 animals from 500 species, the majority classed as vulnerable to extinction.
To enable the scheme, the existing zebra and antelope indoor habitats and crane outdoor habitats will be removed and rebuilt, as well as the existing monorail.
Completion is targeted for 2022. Barton Willmore advised on the planning application.