New safari park with wildebeest, zebra and flamingos could open in Norfolk

Farmer Edward Pope with a herd of water buffalo in west Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Farmer Edward Pope with a herd of water buffalo in west Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A safari park could be built in West Norfolk giving people a chance to see exotic animals at close quarters.

Farmer Edward Pope has applied for planning permission to convert former quarry workings and fields off the A10 at Watlington into a wildlife reserve.

Conservationist Mr Pope, who owns the land, has already run breeding programmes for deer, antelope and water buffalo, ploughing the profits from gravel extraction into planting hedgerows and woodlands and improving habitats.

'Now I want to build on that work by expanding this refuge to create an inspirational centre for education, visitor experiences that people can enjoy and a site for wildlife encounters,' he says in a planning statement.

The statement says the site could provide 'an exceptional wildlife experience with birds and animals behaving naturally despite some being thousands of miles away from their native lands'.

'Watlington Wildlife Park will be a place to relax, a place to learn and a place to explore,' it adds. 'As a centre for conservation excellence, that park will offer the chance to see extraordinary, non-predatory wildlife close up in a natural, open environment without cages or pens including markhor, zebra and buck, rare great bustards, flamingos, ibex and wildebeest.'

As a first phase Mr Pope has applied to fence off the 50-acre site, for the safety of the both the animals and public.

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He has also applied to put up a temporary cabin to serve as a reception area and a hard standing to provide car parking for visitors and staff.

The planning statement says the site, seven miles south of King's Lynn, would employ six people and attract 22,000 extra visitors a year to the area. People visiting would tour the reserve on electric buggies.

A public consultation event was held in the village last year. More than 100 attended and the feedback was 'largely positive' according to the planning statement.

No buildings have been proposed for the site in the application to change the use of the site from quarry to wildlife park.

West Norfolk council's planning committee is expected to discuss the application in November.