Exciting plans have been unveiled for a £50m expansion of Doncaster's Yorkshire Wildlife Park which will create 300 new jobs and bring dozens of new animals to the visitor attraction.
The park has secured 150 acres of land adjacent to the current site and is developing plans, which bosses say have the potential to make it one of the leading destinations in the UK.
CEO John Minion said: “We are very excited about this next stage of our life and believe it will be a game changer for Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster and the surrounding area.
"We have already contributed approximately £12.2 million to the local economy. This is a major investment for us and will double our workforce, creating around 300 new jobs.
The proposal includes the development of new reserves and the introduction of new species to continue the park’s conservation and welfare work.
The park was founded eight years ago from Brockholes Farm and it has gone from a handful of visitors in its early days to one of the UK's most popular zoo attractions.
Added Mr Minion: “Since opening we have been able to contribute hugely to protecting endangered species such as Amur Tigers and Leopards and African Painted Dogs and our visitors share our passion to cherish wildlife and ensure its survival.
"This expansion will allow us to take our conservation work to another level. But providing an excellent visitor experience is the key to what we do. "
Director Cheryl Williams added: "This could also be a game changing development for Doncaster.
“Leisure has become a key part of the Doncaster story. Our development is located close to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Doncaster Racecourse and the new proposed PGA Golf course at Rossington. This will provide a critical mass of world class tourist attractions and bring an international audience to Doncaster."
The new land will enable a natural expansion of the existing park and a new access from Hurst Lane, which will benefit from the second phase of the Great Yorkshire Way road scheme, leading from the motorway network to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
YWP is currently working with expert consultants and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council to develop a plan for new car parks and optimum traffic management.
A visitor hub is being designed at the new entrance, which could include a destination hotel and supporting visitor facilities including restaurants and leisure shopping.
This will include the relocation of the existing Safari Village shopping area.
Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “This is a very exciting development for the team at Yorkshire Wildlife Park who have done a fantastic job developing the attraction since it opened in 2009.
“This expansion will enable more conservation work and protection of endangered species, and I have no doubt visitors to the park will benefit greatly from these development plans.”
The park in Branton is currently developed on 100 acres of its current 300-acre site and is home to over 400 animals from more than 80 species.
It currently employs 300 local people and has contributed approximately £12.2 million to date to the local economy with visitor numbers rising steadily to a record 761,000 during 2016.
There will be enhanced apprenticeship and work experience opportunities as part of the expansion and it is estimated that approximately 300 local jobs will be created, essentially doubling the workforce.
The YWP design team is now talking to the community, business leaders, councillors and politicians about the plans and is inviting feedback on the next stage in YWP’s life. There will also be public consultation events on Friday June 16 and Saturday June 17.
The project is still in its early stages and pre-application discussions with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council are currently being held. Outline planning permission will then be submitted in the next few months.