Applicant and international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London submitted full plans for a new primate and anoa exhibit, a separate covered viewing area and other works at the wild animal park.
The site at The Green in Whipsnade was previously used as stables and paddocks for wild horses, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.
“The proposal is considered inappropriate development within the Green Belt, but special circumstances put forward are considered to outweigh the harm,” said the report.
Senior planning officer Lauren Rance told the committee: “The application is for a new animal enclosure within the confines of Whipsnade Zoo located in the South Bedfordshire Green Belt and Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
“There will be two new buildings to provide accommodation for macaques and lowland anoa, as well as fencing, with the perimeter secured by a sunken electric fence,” she explained.
“It includes the loss of 16 trees to ensure the macaques don’t escape their new enclosure. But 16 replacement trees are to be planted in an adjacent area to compensate for this.
“The project will provide the equivalent of three full-time jobs. The enclosure will allow the anoa and endangered macaques to be brought to the zoo as a new exhibit.
“This is before the committee as it’s a major application and considered a departure from planning policy.”
The building is in two parts, which are joined by a covered viewing area looking out over the paddocks, added the report.
“One section houses the macaques, while the anoa occupy the other. Extra fencing is proposed within the enclosure to provide separation of animals.”
Representing the ZSL, Whipsnade Zoo chief operating officer Owen Craft said: “We inspire and empower people to stop wildlife going extinct.
“That’s achieved through our innovative science, our fieldwork conservation in more than 60 countries and our two UK zoos, London and Whipsnade.
“Wildlife health is a key animal welfare priority for us regarding four key species, including the macaques and anoa.
“This is to provide appropriate landscape and housing to meet optimum welfare standards. There’s also the conservation impact. These are high priority species within our collection.
“They’re critically endangered. The development allows futureproofing of these species for breeding purposes and to ensure viable populations. We’ve a long history of working with Indonesian zoos,” he added.
“We’re sympathetic to the landscaping, the design and the biodiversity net gain in this project. It will also create more pedestrian trails.
“On the visitor economy side, there are jobs created with the keeper positions, engagement staff and volunteers.”
Conservative Caddington councillor Kevin Collins said: “I asked the parish council if it had any particular concerns to alert me ahead of this meeting. I’ve received no such response.
“I believe the parish are perfectly happy. It’s fair comment that the council has a very good working relationship with a major landowner and employer within its patch.”
Councillors unanimously approved the development.