Plans for multimillion-pound Manchester Zoo considered

Image source, ManchesterZoo/MistyNicholson
Image caption,
A design concept for Manchester Zoo

A zoologist is finalising multimillion-pound plans to build a new zoo in Greater Manchester.

The "Manchester Zoo" project is being developed by Johnpaul Houston who is in advanced talks with Trafford Council.

Mr Houston, a former assistant head keeper at Blackpool Zoo, hopes to be able to announce the precise location of the site by the end of April.

He hopes the zoo will open by the end of 2021, while an education centre for schools could be completed next year.

Mr Houston, 32, from Ormskirk, told the BBC he had managed to secure private funding for the zoo, which will cost at least £8m to get up and running.

"I think people just get so inspired by zoos and nature," he said. "Zoos are ultimately responsible for the conservation of species."

Mr Houston, who holds positions with a number of global zoological associations, said he had identified two potential sites for the zoo in Greater Manchester.

One is about 90 acres in size while the other is about 250 acres.

Describing it as a 20-year project, Mr Houston said the new zoo would need time to grow.

If it gains planning permission, it would be the first zoo in Greater Manchester since the closure of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in 1977.

Image source, Chetham's Library
Image caption,
Children ride and stroke an elephant at Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in October 1948

"What we are trying to do is pretty different," said Mr Houston. "Belle Vue closed because there was a new understanding of animals and how to keep them and the welfare standards probably weren't amazing.

"We're trying to create a much more naturalistic landscape for the animals and make them feels as though - at least in part - they can exhibit all of their natural behaviour which I don't think they were able to do [back] then."

Mr Houston said major emphasis would be placed on conservation, education and saving threatened species.

Initially, he said, exotic species from Madagascar, lemurs and birds of prey would feature, with different animals added as the zoo develops.

The project has already secured a partnership with a rainforest research centre based in Madagascar called Ampasy.

A spokesman for Trafford Council said: "Council officers have met with Mr Houston to discuss his proposals. We will continue to work with him in advance of any potential future planning application."

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