'Significant' expansion to Yorkshire Wildlife Park could be a 'game changer' for town

The plans.

A "SIGNIFICANT" expansion of one of Yorkshire's biggest tourist attractions could be a "game changer" for Doncaster, it has been claimed.

A 150-acre expansion of Yorkshire Wildlife Park would create more than 300 jobs and give a £50m boost to the local economy, the Park has said, as it submitted plans for the ambitious project to Doncaster Council today.

The Park is home to the only polar bears in England. Picture: Marisa Cashill

The plans would see improve facilities and increase the species of animals cared for at the park in Branton, Doncaster, which is aiming to become one of the leading destinations in the UK.

Plans for the first stage of the project features a new entrance and car park on land adjacent to the current site, and further applications to follow will include new animal reserves, lakes and landscaping and a visitor support hub at the new entrance with restaurants and a destination hotel. Just under a third of the new area will be dedicated to animal areas, while more than 50 per cent will be general landscaping and woodlands.

An economic impact study compiled for the application revealed nearly 1,500 extra indirect jobs in the regional supplier chain, in addition to the extra 300 full equivalent time posts directly attributable to the Park, doubling the overall workforce at the Park.

The work, if granted full approval, would take two years to complete.

“This is significant investment and a step change for Yorkshire Wildlife Park,” said chief executive John Minion.

“We have been working hard to create an expansion that is in keeping with the ethos of the Park and is an asset for local people to enjoy and benefit from. We have consulted with experts on the environmental, ecological, transport and business impact. We believe that it will bring great benefit to the area.”

Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened in 2009 and is currently home to 400 animals from 80 different species. In 2016, it attracted a record 761,000 visitors.

Since opening, the Park has invested £14.8m in its development.

The new land will enable a natural expansion of the existing park and a new access from Hurst Lane, which will benefit from the second phase of the Great Yorkshire Way road scheme, leading from the motorway network to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

The expansion will also boost the park’s potential to build its educational offer which attracted more than 80,000 school children last year with 33,000 attending sessions delivered by YWP’s education team.

Residents living near the Park have been consulted prior to the application being submitted, with a 78.3% positive response in feedback.

The application’s summary states: “We believe we have developed a scheme which meets both Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s aspirations to become one of the largest zoos in the UK, paying particular attention to the opportunities provided by the site in terms of nature conservation, ecological enhancement, sustainable construction, valuable landscape enhancement and careful management and consideration of transport within the site and connections to the existing network.”

It adds: “Yorkshire Wildlife Park are committed to delivering a high quality, sustainable scheme that has a strong sense of place which will be an attractive place for people to live around, work in and to visit.”

Director Cheryl Williams said: "Since opening we have also been able to contribute hugely to protecting endangered species such as Amur Tigers and Leopards and African Painted Dogs and our visitors share our passion to cherish wildlife and ensure its survival. This expansion will allow us to take our conservation work to another level. But providing an excellent visitor experience is the key to what we do.

"This could also be a game changing development for Doncaster as a UK destination.

“Leisure has become a key part of the Doncaster story. Our development is located close to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Doncaster Racecourse and the new proposed PGA Golf course at Rossington. This will provide a critical mass of world class tourist attractions and bring an international audience to Doncaster."

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “This is a very exciting development for the team at Yorkshire Wildlife Park who have done a fantastic job developing the attraction since it opened in 2009.

“This expansion will enable more conservation work and protection of endangered species, and I have no doubt visitors to the park will benefit greatly from these development plans.”

The Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones said “The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is a fantastic success story and a great asset for Doncaster. It offers a superb visitor experience, delivers valuable conservation work, and provides hundreds of jobs and a multi-million-pound contribution to our economy. I welcome these exciting expansion plans, which are testament to the hard work of everyone at YWP, and I am sure they will see the park go from strength to strength.”

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