A COUPLE has vowed to keep a ‘lifelong dream’ alive after their plans for a new community zoo were rejected.

Ben and Melissa Mews were shocked when Cheshire East Council turned down their application to develop a zoo and wildlife conservation park on the Bidlea Dairy site in Twemlow Lane, Holmes Chapel.

After running their animal encounters business Zoo2U for 11 years, they are keen to expand and had been working with the authorities to turn their vision into reality, since submitting the bid in May 2022.

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The pair were left devastated after learning that their plans had been refused.

Ben said: “When we heard this news we were shocked, saddened and frustrated.

“We worked hard to open a dialogue with the planning department, ensuring that we answered all of their questions diligently and comprehensively.

“This negative decision flew in the face of all the advice and expert support from conservationists, planning consultants, local councillors and government.”

The couple have more than 30 years’ experience in conservation and animal care and regularly bring small and endangered species into mainstream and special schools and care homes.

The company has outgrown their former premises and hopes to move to the dairy’s Orchard Farm to develop their business.

Knutsford Guardian: Bidlea Dairy where Ben and Melissa Mews still hope to open a new community zooBidlea Dairy where Ben and Melissa Mews still hope to open a new community zoo (Image: Bidlea Dairy)

“This is a long running dream to share important messages about conservation and connect people back to nature,” said Ben.

“People love to see where animals live and how to look after them.

“We had a zoo licence at our last place and passed robust inspections with no problem.”

The couple has been overwhelmed by support from the community.

“We have had an amazing response from locals,” said Ben.

“We now have a stronger determination than ever to achieve our vision of a small zoo focused on community, sustainability, conservation and education.

“We recognise that planners aren’t the enemy. We want to work with the council to answer their concerns and find a solution.

“This is positive, exciting thing.

“We’re already talking to colleges about giving students experience.

“We are well cemented and part of the community. We absolutely love it here and want to give something back.”

Knutsford Guardian: MP Fiona Bruce has pledged her support for the community zoo describing it as 'exciting'MP Fiona Bruce has pledged her support for the community zoo describing it as 'exciting' (Image: MP Fiona Bruce)

Hundreds of objections, mostly from people in other parts of the country, expressed concern about keeping animals caged.

Some residents are worried about the loss of green land, increase in traffic, inadequate roads and noise.

Planning officer Melissa Martin gave the following reasons for refusing the application: “The proposed development would result in encroachment in the open countryside through development of open land and cause harm to its character and appearance.

“The development cannot be seen to make the best use of existing infrastructure or be required in conjunction with a particular countryside attraction as the existing facilities and hardstanding are unlawful.

“By virtue of design and layout, the proposed development would remove the existing open character and appearance of the site from the surrounding area.

“The elongation of built form present from Twemlow Lane would also not result in a positive contribution to the area due to its lack of features and simplicity.”