Chester Zoo has been granted permission to open a hotel and restaurant overlooking its new African savannah habitat.
Visitors to the attraction will be able to stay in “discreet” overnight accommodation, comprising 42 rooms including traditional African-themed lodges and rigid tents, and wake up to the sight of giraffes. Nocturnal and early morning tours will also be available to overnight residents.
The new restaurant will offer views of zebra, ostrich and antelope when the project, dubbed Grasslands, is completed in 2022.
Jamie Christon, the zoo’s chief operating officer, told the BBC: “It’ll be something that’s never been seen before at any zoo in the world, so our visitors can wake up in the morning, open the curtains and look across the savannah and see the animals.”
Chester West and Chester Council approved the plans despite concerns about the development’s location in Cheshire’s Green Belt.
Addressing the planning committee, objector Les Smith had said there was “no justification” for the new accommodation and that it was “just about money”.
“As far as the application is concerned, a four-star hotel is accepted by everybody as being inappropriate development in the green belt. The policy written for the zoo does not include a hotel,” he added.
But according to Labour councillor Matt Bryan, the zoo had previously considered a “much larger” development but re-examined “how they can work sustainably with the animals they have got on the site, provide a new offer to our local economy, with a relatively modest amount of overnight units”.
Councillors unanimously approved the plans on Tuesday.
Chester Zoo opened in 1931. At 125-acres, it is one of the largest zoos in the UK.
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