Zoo decision secures £5m investment

The entrance to Blackpool Zoo

The entrance to Blackpool Zoo

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Blackpool Zoo has been granted a 10-year extension to its lease by the council in a move which will secure further multi-million pound investment in the attraction.

A 30-year lease was agreed in April 2003 when the zoo was transferred to a private operator.

There are now 17 years left, but the zoo wants more certainty over its future tenure of the site.

A council report says without an extension the zoo’s parent company “would not be committed to making the new capital investment.”

Around £5m of spending is in the pipeline including plans for a new elephant enclosure to replace the current 75-year-old pen.

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for municipal assets at Blackpool Council, said: “If you look at the record, since it was taken over the zoo has gone from strength to strength.

“I think the care for the animals is the highest it has been, and they have shown by their investment and development of the site that it is a first class attraction and something Blackpool can be very proud of.

“I understand there are people who will object to zoos, but it does serve a very useful purpose and I am confident everything is being operated in the correct way.

“The animals are being looked after in the right way and it is an asset to Blackpool.”

The running of the East Park Drive attraction was handed over to Grant Leisure in 2003 before the lease was sold in 2007 to Spanish company Parque Reunides, which currently runs the 32-acre park.

The council receives rent at 2.5 per cent of turnover, less £34,422.

The report adds: “The zoo wishes an extension to enable a level of certainty for future business planning and capital investment including the elephant house which recently received planning permission.”

As part of the agreement, the level of turnover rent will be reviewed in the fifth year of the extension.

A report following a council scrutiny of the zoo in 2013, said investment had resulted in a 40 per cent increase in visitor growth and a 170 per cent leap in revenue since the zoo was handed over to the private sector.

A spokesman for the zoo said they could not comment on the extension of the lease at this stage.

Blackpool Zoo was the last council-operated zoo in the country until it was decided to appoint a private operator because the council could no longer invest in the attraction.