Redbridge is to get a brand new zoo thanks to a £4.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure masterplan aims to transform Hainault Forest Country Park into a regional visitor attraction, reports the Ilford Recorder.

The funding was granted to help preserve and enhance the ancient forest’s biodiversity and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal described the zoo as ‘excellent news’ for the borough. Redbridge has also just launched its bid to become the London Borough of Culture.

No news about the zoo’s animal exhibits has been forthcoming.

Hainault Forest covers 800 acres, 250 of which are green belt and ancient woodland. 158 bird species have so far been recorded on the site, along with 940 species of invertebrates including butterflies and dragonflies.

Ros Kerslake, CEO of HLF, said the forest was at a crossroads and in desperate need of investment to avoid further deterioration.

The project is seen as a ‘once-in-a-life-time opportunity’ to protect the forest, provide jobs for local people and attract visitors.

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