The council’s planning officers have backed the demolition of the zoo’s existing snow leopard enclosure but have recommended a replacement facility for refusal, arguing it would encroach on to designated green belt.
The zoo has 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.
The architect’s design and access statement argued the new facilities would “not only provide an improved, modern visitor attraction that will contribute to the zoo’s successful future but also deliver a state-of-the-art snow leopard habitat that will enhance the animals’ lives and help contribute to the longevity of the species”.
To enable the development, the zoo is 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”.
The new-build and the demolition are being brought forward through two separate planning applications, both of which are due to go before the council’s planning committee later this week.
While planning officers have signalled their support for the demolition of the old enclosure, the new facility has been met with some resistance, with officers putting forward a “minded to refuse” recommendation to committee.
This largely hinges on the planners’ argument that the new development would be built on a currently-undeveloped area. Planners argued this would “encroach on to greenfield land outside the current built footprint of the zoo”, given the land proposed for the new enclosure is designated as a green wedge.
Planning 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”.
The planners’ report concluded: “Whilst the economic and animal welfare benefits are acknowledged, officers do not consider that they justify the proposal in this particular location. The recommendation is therefore to refuse planning permission”.
Conwy Council’s planning committee meets on 13 February.