28th November 2022

Hopwood Hall College has submitted a planning application (reference 22/01083/FUL) to allow the running of a public zoo from their 8-acre site in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

We are calling on our supporters to submit objections to these plans. And here's why!

The college already runs ‘Animal Management’ courses, using live animals as part of their study modules to provide students with a “hands-on” animal learning experience. However, they now wish to open the doors up to the public outside of study time, in the hopes of making more profit from the animals who are currently forced to endure captivity there.

This would create the first new zoo in the Greater Manchester area since Belle Vue Zoological Gardens closed in 1977; and see the college holding future events such as birthday parties and school visits, to provide “animal experiences'' that will allow children and families to get up close to species like flamingos and meerkats. Not only are these events known to cause immense stress to captive individuals, they also provide very little educational benefit to children or students. Seeing captive wild animals in environments so far removed from their natural habitat presents children with an entirely false view of, not only the animals themselves, but also the very urgent issues facing many species in the wild today.

Back in 2020, a company called the Manchester Zoo Company, attempted to push ahead with plans to build a new zoo in the same area of Rochdale, covering more than 150 acres of council-owned land around the college.

At the time Freedom for Animals raised their concerns on the project, highlighting the catastrophic impact its build would have on both captive wild animals, and the wild animals living in the surrounding environment.

Although the application appeared to have council support, the firm behind it encountered financial difficulties and the plans were seemingly dropped. Now, two years later, it appears the college itself is pushing forward with a similar, albeit smaller, project on their land.

Planning papers submitted to the council read: “The college sees this offering as a really positive thing in the community with social value providing a unique offering to the community as well as inspiring young people to get into the associated courses and careers with animals.

“Its unique offering as an educational facility in this area of expertise gives a real USP [unique selling point] to the borough and attraction of students.” 

Documents say the facility also offers a great resource for student and staff wellbeing, due to its green space and the opportunity to interact with animals, with the college stating: “[We] have found this to have a really positive impact on the college’s users beyond just the course students.” 

What none of the above statements address, is the impact such activities will have on the animals already forced to live there, and the negative repercussions such heightened human interaction will bring to their welfare. The discussion is completely focussed around enticing more visitors or students through their doors, and the increased money and profit that will then generate. Animal protection considerations have been completely disregarded.

The college also claims the plans do not require any physical changes or new development on site, just that it will operate in a different way outside of class time. This attempts to downplay the level of change these plans will force on the animals already kept captive there, as, of course, the incorporation of parties and external events within the vicinity of their enclosures will have a catastrophic impact on their already unnatural environments, and force them to suffer increased human interaction and noise levels on a daily basis. 

Sadly, even in 2022, animal welfare and protection concerns are not considered during the objection process, with external environmental factors and residential issues the main criteria on which planning decisions are made.

It is still possible to put in an objection to these plans, however, since the decision process has been recently moved forward, we now only have until this evening to reject them.

We are urgently calling on our supporters to take action, and submit objections via the council form by 11.59pm today (28th November)!

Take Action Here!