MORE endangered species will move into Chester Zoo after councillors unanimously approved plans for a savannah habitat.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has granted permission for the Grasslands development, which will become home to rare species of giraffe, zebra, ostriches and antelopes, among others.

The development will also include a new restaurant with views of the savannah, along with overnight stay accommodation for visitors.

Cathy Partington, representing Chester Zoo, told Tuesday’s planning committee meeting: “Grasslands is one element of our strategic development plan to 2030 which is designed to ensure that we continue to invest in both the very best animal welfare and provide a fantastic experience for visitors to the zoo.

“In the main, it transforms existing land within the zoo, reimagining it to create an experience which allows our visitors to see and learn as much as possible about the threatened African species that live there.

“This is a key role for us as a conservation and education charity – and one that is more important than ever as we respond to the challenges facing our planet.”

There were some concerns about the development sitting in Cheshire’s green belt – particularly the new accommodation, made up of 28 lodges and 14 tents.

Objector Les Smith told the committee that there is ‘no justification’ for the new accommodation, and that it is ‘just about money’.

Cllr Simon Eardley, Conservative CWAC member for Saughall and Mollington, added: “Whilst accepting that Chester Zoo is a key strategic and economic asset for Cheshire, and whilst it is no doubt the case that the proposed development further enhances its offer as a destination, the question arises as to whether this can – or should – be at any cost.”

But both Upton ward councillors – Labour Cllr Matt Bryan and Conservative Cllr Jill Houlbrook – said they had not received any objections to the plans from their residents.

Cllr Bryan added: “We have got a very good working relationship – the community and the zoo – and we consider them very good neighbours.

“Previously a much larger development was considered and desired, and this is the result of them having a think about how they can work sustainably with the animals they have got on the site, how they can provide a new offer to our local economy, with a relatively modest amount of overnight units.”

Grasslands is expected to open in 2022.