Zoo featuring meerkats, flamingos and owls could open in Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester has not had a zoo since Belle Vue’s facility closed in 1977.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A new zoo featuring meerkats, flamingos and owls could open in Greater Manchester.

Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale created livestock and horticultural zones at its Middleton campus nearly 10 years ago, allowing it to offer an animal management education course unique within the city-region.

Now it wants to open up the various animal enclosures to the public outside of study time – creating Greater Manchester’s first zoo since Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, which closed in 1977. The college, on Rochdale Road, is hoping to run the eight-acre site more commercially, in order to bring in extra cash to maintain the facility for educational purposes.

This could include events such as birthday parties and school visits as well as ‘animal experiences’ with creatures such as meerkats, flamingos and owls.

What did the plans submitted to the council for the zoo say?

Planning papers submitted to the council read: “The college sees this offering as a really positive thing in the community with social value providing a unique offering to the community as well as inspiring younger people to get into the associated courses and careers with animals.

“Its unique offering as an educational facility in this area of expertise gives a real USP [unique selling point] to the borough and attraction of students.” Documents says the facility also offers a great resource for student and staff wellbeing, due to its green space and the opportunity to interact with animals. “The college has found this has a really positive impact on the college’s users beyond just the course students,” it adds.

The plan does not require any physical changes or any new development on site, but the college will operate in a different way outside of class time.

The animal management area sits within the north-west part of the wider Hopwood Campus, which is accessed from Rochdale Road. The campus lies to the north of Middleton.

Plans for a sprawling ‘Manchester Zoo’ covering more than 150 acres of land around the college were unveiled back in 2020, and had council support. But these now appear to have hit the buffers – at least for the foreseeable future – after the firm behind it encountered financial difficulties.

Hopwood Hall College is a provider of further and higher education and has one campus in Rochdale and another in Middleton.