Controversial plans for a wildlife park in Horncastle have received a massive show of support from residents.
The News spoke to 50 people in the town last Wednesday and Thursday to gauge support for businessman Andrew Riddel’s plans for the park off Hemingby Lane.
Only three people were against the venture – and none lived in Horncastle.
The figures equate to 94% of people backing Mr Riddel.
Several people said they thought the park – home to Syas, a Bengal tiger, and 200 other animals – was a boost for the town.
In addition, a further 30 people have called, emailed, or written to the News saying they backed the venture.
To date, only two have contacted the News directly opposing the park.
An online petition asking people to back the park has already received more than 2,370 signatures.
The support comes as East Lindsey District Council confirmed a decision which could hold the key to the park’s future is still a ‘little way away’.
Mr Riddel has submitted an application for three enclosures to accommodate lions, tigers and wolves. The animals are already at the park.
But, without the planning permission for the enclosures, it is not certain what will happen.
As first revealed in the News, the situation is complicated by the fact a leading house builder – Larkfleet/Allison Homes – already has permission to build 80 dwellings on a neighbouring site.
The company has written a strongly worded letter of objection to ELDC, raising concerns about the safety of the park, and its proximity to the new homes, along with noise and smell issues.
There were reports a decision on the enclosures would be made this week but a spokesman for ELDC denied that was the case.
He also confirmed the application would go before ELDC’s full planning committee. The next scheduled meeting is September 6.
Sources at ELDC indicate a decision has been delayed because no-one at the authority has experience of a wildlife park application.
The council did confirm recently that it was waiting for a official noise report.
Several national newspapers and radio stations have followed up the News’s initial report.
Mr Riddel told Jeremy Vine’s Radio Two show last week that, providing the enclosures received planning permission, he will then apply to register the park as a zoo.
At present, it is classed as a private venture and can only open to the public seven days a year.
A recent open weekend attracted more than 2,500 visitors, on the first day alone.
During the BBC programme, Mr Riddel confirmed the park was home to more than 200 animals, with more set to arrive.
He accused Larkfleet/Allison Homes of being rude for refusing to take part in the radio programme – and refusing to contact him.
He said if the company was that concerned, he would sell the 40-odd acre site to them and he would move elsewhere.
Mr Riddel told listeners ‘I was here first’ and said Larkfleet/Allison – and not him – had stirred up what he called a ‘hornet’s nest’.