Stunning new plans for a state-of-the-art wildlife park on the outskirts of Horncastle will create a major tourist attraction, and deliver a massive boost to the economy, it has been claimed.
Businessman Andrew Riddel and his partner Tracy Walters are the driving force behind the ambitious project which would create a significant number of new jobs and provide facilities for around 300 animals including tigers, lions, giraffes, bears, wolves and monkeys.
In their first interview since new plans were submitted to East Lindsey District Council, the couple say the Wolds Wildlife Park would help transform the area.
Mr Riddel and Ms Walters were initially waiting for retrospective permission for animal enclosures and associated buildings, some of which are already in use.
The new application is much more ambitious, and provides potentially one of the county’s leading tourism attractions.
The plans include:
• An education centre
• A reception building
• A cafe and shop
• Business units
• Parking for almost 200 cars (plus coaches)
• Toilet blocks.
The plans have been drawn up by leading architects AM2 who have worked on similar projects throughout Europe.
Apart from the animal enclosures, the park will also feature waterways which will be home to a number of endangered birds.
Mr Riddel refuses to put a figure on the cost of the project, but stresses he is not doing it for financial gain.
The couple say their motivation comes from “a passion for animals”.
They stress the main theme of the park will be ‘education and conservation.’
Mr Riddel, who is best known for running a scrap metal business, said: “We are aiming to create something that puts Horncastle on the map.
“It’s not just about people coming through our gates.
“Hopefully, people will visit Horncastle, use all the shops, restaurants, coffee houses, pubs and hotels.
“It should bring money and new investment into the town - something we can all be proud of.” The couple say potential for the park was highlighted by the success of an open weekend this summer which attracted around 2,000 visitors.
Since then, they have been overwhelmed by messages of support.
They hope that support will continue as they wait for planning permission.
They say the park will be open to everyone with top of the range facilities and paths suitable for the disabled and children.
Mr Riddel added: “Everyone will be welcome.
“We’ve already had interest from schools and colleges.
“Education and conservation is going to be a big part of what we are doing.”
“Future plans include a botanical garden - designed for conservation - and an animal breeding programme.
There is no indication when the plans will go before ELDC but Mr Riddel and Ms Walters hope to open to the public next summer.
Before then, they are proposing to stage around half-a-dozen open events when visitors will be able to visit animals and monitor progress.
Details of the project are included in a comprehensive report which is available on ELDC’s planning portal.
The report has been prepared by Louth based For-ward Planning Consultancy and highlights the positive impact the park will have on the area.
It reaffirms the park will meet a number of key planning requirements and says the site - and landscaping - mean it will not be visible from the adjacent A153.
The report highlights the scale of the project in stating: “An important facet of the site will be the education centre that will not only serve pupils from any nearby schools but also be a ‘multifunctional’ venue with space for conferences and parties amongst other things.
“A suite a flexible office space is proposed to the west of the main reception building which houses the gift shop, entrance, toilets, cafe and kitchen.”