By Lucy Todman | Bishop’s Castle
A wolf sanctuary based in Shropshire has been given the go-ahead to expand.
Visitors will be able to see the animals in their natural habitat after proposals for an educational facility were approved by planners.
With the backing of Born Free actress Virginia McKenna, Wolf Watch UK applied to Shropshire Council for permission to build a holiday let and learning centre at its 100-acre sanctuary near Bishop’s Castle.
Wolf Watch UK is a private membership wolf conservation group and access to the project is strictly via ‘adopt a wolf’ membership. In addition, university and college students along with charities such as Guide Dogs for the Blind trainees and The Dogs Trust have permission to bring visiting parties during pre-arranged days.
The sanctuary was opened by Tony Haighway in 1996 and the wolves have been used in many educational TV documentaries including those presented by Sir David Attenborough, Wildlife on One, Countryfile and Countrywise. Some of the wolves have also appeared in films and television series.
Under the plans, a new educational classroom will replace the present building and a lodge will also be built for short term lets to members.
A design statement, submitted on behalf of Mr Haighway said: “The building would have protective overhanging eaves to lessen its impact. It is important to maintain a peaceful and tranquil setting to be effective.
“It will be sited to be accessible to all and efficiently operated, accommodating both functions as a short stay holiday let and educational facility. The significantly improved arrangements will also allow income to be generated through the membership and advance funds primarily for the benefit of Wolf Watch UK’s initiative to conserve and provide sanctuary for displaced wolves.”
The plans were universally supported by locals and groups including Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Herefordshire and Ludlow College and the local parish council.
Virginia McKenna OBE, founder trustee of The Born Free Foundation, has visited the sanctuary on a number of occasions and in her letter to Shropshire Council the actress said: “I have always left uplifted and encouraged to see such genuine understanding of the individual characters and needs of the wolves. It is, I believe, an ideal environment to bring people who wish to understand more about animals.
“It surely will influence how they themselves will view them –and possibly care for them in the future. It is a rare moment, in our fraught world, that one has the chance to back something that has, it appears, only positive aspects.”
* For more information visit wolfwatch.uk