UK’s largest zoo extension opens in Chester

The UK’s largest zoo extension has opened to the public at Chester in Cheshire, north-west England.

Phase one of zoo’s £40m ‘Islands’ scheme was launched this week and is expected to welcome 150,000 visitors in its first year.

The Islands cover 50,000 square metres, and contain five habitats linked by a series of bridges and a "Lazy River" boat trip.

Islands hosts animals from south-east Asia, including Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian islands of Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.

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Barton Willmore, the UK’s largest planning and design consultancy, advised on the planning permission of the Islands project.

Dan Mitchell, a partner in Barton Willmore’s Manchester team, told GCR: "This is the first project of its kind for us and it was uniquely challenging and rewarding. Chester Zoo is extremely significant for the local area and is one of the biggest visitor attractions in the UK.

Phase One of the Islands

"Our Manchester-based team is incredibly proud to have worked with the zoo to develop their ‘Natural Vision’ strategy and we are excited to see our work on the Islands project come to fruition.

"Islands is a complex construction project with significant challenges in getting the right building designs for the Zoo’s collection of endangered animals, all within landscape setting which seeks to recreate a natural habitat."

A cassowary, native of the New Guinea rainforest

Turner & Townsend project managed phase one and two of the project.

Simon Mann, Development Director at Chester Zoo, said: "Turner & Townsend was a key member of the team throughout this iconic project, having been involved from concept through to completion. 

"The complexity of design and attention to detail is an attempt to create a truly authentic snapshot of the various island habitats of South East Asia."

Phase two of Islands will house the Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK that will be home to Sumatran orangutans, Sulawesi macaques and the sunda gharial, a type of crocodile.

Phase two is designed by Berlin-based architects Dan Pearlman.

Images via Barton Willmore/Chester Zoo

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