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Islands at Chester Zoo

Islands at Chester Zoo

A spectacular new development, named Islands has opened at Chester Zoo. The scheme involves an exciting concept based on the amazing tropical environments of South East Asia, with an expedition that allows visitors to see areas based on Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.

The purpose of the project was to showcase the conservation work that Chester Zoo carries out, in addition to creating a fantastic visitor attraction.

The opening of the attraction will boost tourism in the local area, bringing an extra 150,000 visitors to the zoo and most importantly, help to put a huge spotlight on the biodiversity and threatened species of South East Asia.

The project is estimated to bring a £3.3million increase in spend in the local and regional economy, with local businesses also benefiting from the development. In addition to exploring Islands by foot, an option to enjoy a river trip by boat is also available.

Premier Construction caught up with Simon Mann, Development Director at Chester Zoo, to find out some key information on the project. Simon said:
“We are in the process of constantly developing the site to improve animal welfare and visitor facilities. In addition to Islands we are developing our overall masterplan to inform our short, medium and long term development programme. The masterplan aims to incorporate four or five themed zones of a similar size and scale to Islands.
“The integration of Islands allows visitors to explore a unique wildlife expedition; the idea was to give each island its own theme, animal collection, unique horticulture and architecture, and relationship with water. Essentially there is one huge island, with water separating the space so that following different waterways leads to the various parts.”

Islands at Chester Zoo

Travelling through Islands, visitors should remember the importance of their findings. Visitors are encouraged to report any evidence to the conservationists to help them with their research and vital projects in the field – this way visitors help to protect and record what is pushing some of the wildlife to the edge of extinction.

Read Construction has successfully completed their part of Chester Zoo’s Islands development – their largest project for Chester Zoo to date, continuing their successful collaborative relationship spanning over the past decade. The zoo greets 1.4million visitors a year, and has been planning the Islands development for five years, with the opening of the first phase having taken place in July this year.

As one of the main contractors working on the project, Read have helped to transform what was once a vacant part of the zoo into far-flung islands, by constructing several buildings that impressively architecturally replicate those found on the South East Asian islands of Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.

Read Construction, a regional SME contractor, has worked with the zoo team to ensure that their commitment to sustainability was reflected throughout the scheme. Read is passionate about supporting the local supply and contributed environmental, economic and socially sustainable initiatives, to ensure attainment of national environmental standard, CEEQUAL.

The development encompasses very heavy civil engineering, to technical challenges such as making the environments spot-on for the animals, through to highly themed work with specialist contractors from Europe. From a procurement perspective, the project was a complex one with lots of different people involved.

Islands at Chester Zoo

Construction company Laing O’Rourke completed the civil engineering works including the shell and core of the Monsoon Forest – the largest indoor zoological building in the UK – which is now open to the public, the formation of the dry moat river channel, drainage works and services distribution.
Islands is a transformational project for Chester Zoo and the North West region. However challenging it may have been, it seems as if the scheme is receiving a successful response.

Simon commented:
“The scale of the project is enormous, it’s about seven football pitches in size – it is in fact the largest zoo project in UK history.”
He added:
“The feedback has been really since the opening.”

Islands is now open, allowing guests to explore Panay, Papua, Bali, Monsoon Forest, Sumba and Sulawesi on foot as well as the option to explore Islands from a unique perspective on the Lazy River Boat Trip. Sumatra will open soon.

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