Elephant house is set for approval...

Elephants in Blackpool Zoo's existing elephant house - although the zoo currently only has one, Kate
Elephants in Blackpool Zoo's existing elephant house - although the zoo currently only has one, Kate
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Proposals for a new elephant house at Blackpool Zoo have been recommended for approval by council planners despite 73 letters of objection protesting against the scheme.

Opponents have raised concerns about animal welfare, and say elephants should not be kept in zoos.

One objector claims elephants are dangerous and has submitted a list of 129 captive elephant attacks and accidents over the last 10 years which have caused death or injury to keepers or the public.

But town hall planners say animal welfare is out of their jurisdiction and is not a planning issue.

In a report to Blackpool’s planning committee, which is due to meet on Tuesday to consider the application, they say: “The objections to this proposal are based on animal welfare, which is an issue beyond the planning remit and controlled under a zoo licence and other national and EU legislation.

“The debate on whether elephants should be kept in zoos or not, is not a planning and land use debate.

“The zoo exists, the site is within the zoo and there are no planning restrictions on the site preventing its use to house elephants.

“In any case, the new building would have a footprint of approximately 1,900 square metres compared to the existing building, which has a footprint of approximately 1,400 square metres and which is also shared 50/50 with insect and reptile exhibits.”

The report adds the new elephant house will meet current standards for elephant welfare and “would be a significant improvement when compared to the existing facilities.”

Animal rights charity PETA wrote an open letter to the council last month urging it to throw out the application, and said more than 5,000 people had added their names to the letter.

If the elephant house gets the go ahead, it will see the current enclosure replaced which is 75 years old and was built originally as an aircraft hangar.

The zoo, on East Park Drive, currently only has one elephant Kate but the facility would help bring a new elephant family to Blackpool.

It would be built on an unused field in the north east corner of the zoo and according to the application, would incorporate the latest 
provisions for elephant welfare including sand floors to a depth of one metre, a building height suitable for bulls and cows, high-level feeding baskets, the most suitable environmental conditions, and a flexible layout with protected access for zoo keepers

The proposed replacement would be accessed from the Dinosaur Park, with the building having a large open span with gantries above.

External paddocks would have themed areas and a large pool and water feature, and be overlooked by a timber high level walkway providing access between the Dinosaur Park and the elephant house.