Are you having a giraffe? Zoo will open in Redbridge in 2020

Redbridge Vision and Redbridge Council has been given funding for a zoo. Will they have giraffes? Pi

Redbridge Vision and Redbridge Council has been given funding for a zoo. Will they have giraffes? Picture: PA - Credit: Archant

A zoo will be built in Redbridge after Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure won a £4.5million funding bid from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Recorder can reveal that Hainault Forest Country Park will be turned into a “regional visitor attraction” complete with an upgraded visitors’ centre.

The funding application was granted to the site at Romford Road, Hainault, to help preserve and enhance the ancient forest’s biodiversity and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Redbridge Council will also invest an extra £1.25m into the project with a further £250,000 from Vision bringing the total investment to £6m.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said he was very excited about the news and it would enable the local authority to turn it into “almost a national park”.

“It will be great for residents to go out and enjoy a day there,” he told the Recorder.

“Together with the golf course and boating lake we will be creating a prospectus of all the good things in Ilford North.”

Most Read

Cllr Athwal said the zoo was excellent news for the borough on top of launching a bid to become the London Borough of Culture.

He couldn’t reveal, however, if there will be lions, tigers and bears at the attraction, saying: “At the moment the animals have not been decided.”

Covering a total of 800 acres, Hainault Forest includes 250 acres of green belt and ancient woodland .

The forest is also pivotal for wildlife and to date 158 species of bird have been recorded including turtle doves, bullfinches, and woodpeckers.

There are also more than 940 species of invertebrates such as butterflies and dragonflies, 79 of which are nationally scarce.

The project has been billed a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to protect the forest and provide a more secure future by putting in place a range of new activities, and skills and training opportunities, to enhance people’s experience of the area.

Ros Kerslake, CEO of HLF, said: “The forest is now at a crossroads where it’s in desperate need of investment to avoid further deterioration.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re helping give this special part of urban Redbridge a chance to survive and thrive.”