THE return of Chester Zoo next week has been welcomed by Winsford and Middlewich’s MPs.

Chester Zoo launched an urgent appeal last week following the Government’s previous decision not to allow zoos to reopen in the next phase of lockdown.

Zoo bosses said the much-loved attraction was seriously under threat by the decision, suggesting they could face £24 million of debt by the end of the year as a result.

But following fierce local pressure and a fundraising campaign which raised more than £2 million, the Government has confirmed zoos can open from next Monday.

Both Winsford and Middlewich MPs raised the concerns of residents with the Government before it made the dramatic U-turn.

Middlewich MP Fiona Bruce, Conservative member for Congleton, said: “Chester Zoo is a cherished local asset. Not only is it particularly valued by people who simply enjoy visiting, but it also provides essential conservation and educational work.

“I am pleased that the Government has listened to these concerns and am in no doubt that the representations of Cheshire MPs has substantially contributed to this decision.”

Winsford MP Edward Timpson, Conservative member for Eddisbury, added: “It’s fantastic that the Government has heard our concerns and decided to permit the zoo to reopen from Monday.

“I would like to thank all concerned constituents for raising this matter and donating to the zoo’s cause and Defra for listening to myself and my colleagues.”

Chester Zoo is the most visited zoo in the country and provides invaluable conservation work.

The Government’s decision was also welcomed by Cllr Louise Gittins, Labour leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, which had urged the Government to reconsider its original position on zoos.

“I'm delighted with the announcement that Government has reversed its decision and allowed Chester Zoo to reopen safely,” she said.

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"It is right that this new legislation, which did not take into account Chester Zoo’s carefully thought out measures to keep people safe, is now to be reassessed.

“This is testament to the global response from the zoo’s supporters locally and across the world, who know what a precious asset Chester Zoo is, and the contribution it makes to fighting extinction.

“Last night’s decision really shows what an impact we as a community can have when our voices are heard.”

CWAC environmental health officers have assessed the zoo’s plans for social distancing and will continue to ensure the safety of visitors, the council says.