Rochdale Council in talks over Manchester zoo plan

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

Talks to build a new multimillion-pound zoo in Greater Manchester are under way, a council has confirmed.

Rochdale Council said it was discussing with a leading zoologist about developing council land near Hopwood Hall College in Middleton.

Plans for the project, first announced in 2019, are expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

If approved, it would be the region's first zoo since Belle Vue Zoological Gardens which closed in 1977.

This project is being developed by Johnpaul Houston, a former assistant head keeper at Blackpool Zoo.

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

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

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

Confirming that discussions were under way, Rochdale council leader Allen Brett said no decisions had been made over the transfer of land but added:

"We are expecting a public consultation to take place in the summer on the proposals ahead of a planning application before the end of the year."

Mr Houston who holds positions with a number of global zoological associations has previously held talks with Trafford Council about another potential site.

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

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