Owners of the Wolds Wildlife Park in Horncastle are celebrating after securing full planning permission for their state-of-the-art development.
Planning officers at East Lindsey District Council have given the ‘thumbs up’ to the park which promises to become one of the region’s premier tourist attractions.
The 30-plus acre park - which will lead to the creation of new jobs - will feature a whole host of attractions and facilities, apart from an impressive collection of animals.
Joint owners Andrew Riddel and partner Tracy Walters described the ‘full’ planning decision as ‘fantastic.’
They confirmed the park could open to the public in August - providing they secure an all-important zoo licence.
In a statement, the couple thanked everyone who had helped and supported them during what they admitted has been an ‘incredible journey’ over the last couple of years.
They are particularly grateful for the support of members of the public - hundreds of whom have enjoyed the park at open days.
Mr Riddel and Ms Walters said: “There have been a lot of ups and downs over the two years the planning process has taken.
“However, when we heard about the decision it was absolutely fantastic.
“We have worked really hard with the planners and they have been very helpful.
“Now, we want to get on and finish what we are determined to ensure is one of the best facilities (small zoo) of its kind in the country.”
The site is already ‘home’ to a number of animals including lions, tigers, bears, zebras, camels, tapirs, capybaras, lemurs, macaques, marmosets, alpacas, wallabies, maras, llamas, coatimundis, lynx, sitatunga, emus and eagle owls,
However, the planning permission indicates a number of other animals will be arriving - including leopards, pumas and giraffes.
The planning permission covers car parking, a reception area, a restaurant, a shop, a staff building and office accommodation.
Also included are an education centre, toilet blocks and a quarantine enclosure.
Mr Riddel and Ms Walters are keen to stress their vision is based on ‘education and conservation.’
All the animals are ‘rehomed’ and could have faced uncertain futures without the couple’s intervention.
The park will have full disabled access, meaning it will be open to everyone.
The couple added: “That (full access) has been one of our priorities. For example, all the paths will be wheelchair friendly.
“Education and conservation are also very important to us. We’re already receiving enquiries from schools and we hope a lot more will follow.”
The permission notes several phases of the work have already been carried out.
Not all facilities will be finished by August and initially there will be restricted opening.
Planners are insisting a number of ‘conditions’ are met before the park can open.
They include an extension of the 40mph speed limit on Louth Road - which will also feature two new vehicle access points - and a footway/cycle way from the park’s main entrance to the junction with Hemingby Lane.
Conditions also include a comprehensive drainage plan, landscaping - and proposals to allow visitors’ safe access to cross Hemingby Lane.
The permission states much of the work has to be approved by the relevant authority.
In a statement included in the permission details, planners say: “We have worked with the applicant and agent in a positive and proactive manner to seek solutions to issues arising. We consider the proposal is acceptable.”
The couple admit they have been ‘blown away’ by the support of the general public which is thought to have been a key factor in the planners’ final decision.
There has been some opposition - both locally and nationally - but the overwhelming majority of views are in favour of the park.
Town mayor Coun Fiona Martin told the News this week that she thought the park would be a ‘tremendous boost’ for Horncastle and East Lindsey.
Meanwhile, the public can get a ‘taste’ of what is to come with a series of open days in August.
They start this weekend (August 3 and 4) followed by August 10 and 11 and August 25 and 26. Admission is pay on the gate.
Full details are available from the park’s website and Facebook page.