Cassidy + Ashton helps Chester Zoo secure planning approval for wedding and events venue

Planning advice from Cassidy + Ashton has helped Chester Zoo to successfully gain approval from Cheshire West and Chester Council to create a venue to hold weddings at the zoo.

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The practice provided specialist advice on plans to convert the Grade-II listed stable buildings, the original home of the first Chester Zoo animals, into a wedding and events space.

As part of the Zoo’s strategic development plan, proceeds from events held at the new venue will help to boost its conservation efforts and to support endangered species from across the globe.

Designed by Donald Insall Associates, the masterplan for the refurbishment was given the green light in November 2019, but the onset of the pandemic delayed development work. The revised plans focussed on the potential revenue that will be created by the new venue that can then be reinvested in the care and support of the zoo animals. This approach helped to secure final Council approval.

The historic stables, which have not been open to the public for over 50 years, have been used for storage and as maintenance offices and workshops. The approved plans will retain many of the building’s original features and charm, including historical brickwork featuring scratch marks made by lions sharpening their claws.

An extension will be added to provide interconnecting event and reception rooms. Conservationists say the ‘unique’ venue will provide an important boost to both the zoo’s charitable income and its mission to prevent extinction.

Cassidy + Ashton’s Chester team has supported the zoo on several previous planning applications and provides the zoo with building surveying work and condition surveys across its wide range of both historic and new buildings.

Guy Evans, chartered town planner and director at Cassidy + Ashton said: “Cassidy + Ashton has a long-standing relationship with Chester Zoo and we have always been there to support them with their development plans. We’re delighted to help the zoo secure approval for the refurbishment of the stables, which will enable the zoo to sensitively and sustainably restore the historical building and give it a new purpose.

“As a major wildlife charity working to prevent extinction, the new wedding and events space will enable the zoo to raise additional income to help fund vital conservation initiatives. Our team takes great pride in being involved in such important projects like this.”

As part of the zoo’s conservation efforts and its mission to be carbon net zero and a zero-waste operation by 2030, the revamped stable buildings would also have all the necessary eco-friendly measures in place.

Guy added: “The reuse of the building from a maintenance yard to a building that the public can interact with through events and weddings ensures the stable buildings will become the heart of a social and civic purpose for the zoo.”

Chester Zoo, based in Upton-by-Chester, Cheshire, was opened in 1931 and is operated by the North of England Zoological Society, a registered charity. It is one of the UK’s largest zoos with a total land holding of approximately 128 acres. It is one of the most-visited wildlife attractions in Britain with over two million visitors each year.

Proposal drawing courtesy of Donald Insall Associates

  • Royal Institute of British Architects - RIBA
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - RICS
  • Royal Town Planning Institute - RTPI
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