The first phase of a £50 million plan to expand Yorkshire Wildlife Park and create 300 jobs has been submitted to Doncaster Council.
The 150-acre expansion will improve facilities and increase the species of animals cared for at the innovative park, which is aiming to become one of the leading destinations in the UK.
Plans for the scheme have now been submitted to DMBC for planning permission.
The application includes change of use of the land and detailed planning for a new entrance and car parks.
Further detailed applications will follow for the development of the new area to link with the current Wildlife Park which will include new animal reserves, lakes and landscaping and a visitor support hub at the new entrance with restaurants and a destination hotel.
An economic impact study compiled for the application revealed nearly 1,500 extra indirect jobs in the regional supplier chain in addition to the extra 300 full equivalent time posts directly attributable to the Park, doubling the overall workforce at the Branton visitor attraction.
A spokesman for YWP said: "This is the result of 12 months of research and consultation and the expansion will enable the park to enhance its international reputation for creating innovative animal reserves and championing animal welfare and conservation."
The work, if granted full approval, would take two years to complete.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is currently home to 400 animals from 80 different species, was opened in 2009 and has built on its popularity every year, attracting a record 761,000 visitors in 2016.
Since opening, the Park has invested £14.8m in its development and has become one of the leading attractions in the UK.
The expansion will also boost the park’s potential to build its educational facilities which attracted more than 80,000 school children last year with 33,000 attending sessions delivered by YWP’s education team.
“This is significant investment and a step change for Yorkshire Wildlife Park,” said CEO John Minion.
“We have been working hard to create an expansion that is in keeping with the ethos of the Park and is an asset for local people to enjoy and benefit from. We have consulted with experts on the environmental, ecological, transport and business impact. We believe that it will bring great benefit to the area.”
The new land will enable a natural expansion of the existing park and a new access from Hurst Lane, which will benefit from the second phase of the Great Yorkshire Way road scheme, leading from the motorway network to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
The application’s summary states: “We believe we have developed a scheme which meets both Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s aspirations to become one of the largest zoos in the UK, paying particular attention to the opportunities provided by the site in terms of nature conservation, ecological enhancement, sustainable construction, valuable landscape enhancement and careful management and consideration of transport within the site and connections to the existing network.”
It adds: “Yorkshire Wildlife Park are committed to delivering a high quality, sustainable scheme that has a strong sense of place which will be an attractive place for people to live around, work in and to visit.”
Director Cheryl Williams added: "This could also be a game changing development for Doncaster as a UK destination.
“Leisure has become a key part of the Doncaster story. Our development is located close to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Doncaster Racecourse and the new proposed PGA Golf course at Rossington. This will provide a critical mass of world class tourist attractions and bring an international audience to Doncaster."
Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “This is a very exciting development for the team at Yorkshire Wildlife Park who have done a fantastic job developing the attraction since it opened in 2009.
“This expansion will enable more conservation work and protection of endangered species, and I have no doubt visitors to the park will benefit greatly from these development plans.”
The Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones said “The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is a fantastic success story and a great asset for Doncaster. It offers a superb visitor experience, delivers valuable conservation work, and provides hundreds of jobs and a multi-million-pound contribution to our economy. I welcome these exciting expansion plans, which are testament to the hard work of everyone at YWP, and I am sure they will see the park go from strength to strength.”