The new building will include a welcome and exhibition area, a fleet of new education spaces as well as future access to the Stores Cavern Mine tunnel.
Plans lodged with Dudley Council Planning Committee would see a site next to the Castle Hill Conservation Area and the new Brierly Hill to Wednesbury metro extension, transformed into a flash new visitors centre.
Currently occupied by a series of maintenance and workshop buildings – which will be demolished – the site sits inside the zoo grounds and stands next to the entrance plaza off Zoological Way.
Representatives for Dudley Zoo say the proposals form an essential element in the Castle Hill Vision Phase Two and will increase the number of visitors. The new Visitor & Education Centre will provide hospitality and breakout spaces, a flexible lecture theatre education space, two education zones for 30 students each as well as an educational laboratory.
Storage for artefacts and educational objects, a library and a ‘bridge link’ to the zoo compound will also be included. The development will add to a host of developments planned for the Castle Hill area including the controversial Dudley Hippodrome redevelopment and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension.
In a design and access statement, a representative for Dudley Zoo said: “As part of its offer, Dudley Zoo & Castle provides discovery and learning opportunities to children and school groups of all ages.
“The Discovery Centre within the zoo grounds is currently used for this purpose, but the building no longer provides adequate facilities. To replace the Discovery Centre, Dudley & West Midlands Zoological Society is now proposing to build a new education centre which will provide purpose-built spaces to meet modern educational requirements.
“The main use of the building will be as an educational resource for school-aged children, but other education workshops will be offered and the new facility will also provide a meeting and conference space outside term time and school hours.
“There is also a proposed reinstatement of the Stores Cavern Mine tunnel which will provide access to the mine from outside the zoo offering educational benefits, integrating it into the wider emerging Black Country Geopark trail and complementing the wet limestone tunnels and coal mine experience of neighbouring attractions.
“Finally it will replace existing sub-standard facilities with a new high-quality building which is economically and environmentally sustainable.”