CPD at the heart of £90m first phase transformation of chester zoo

CPD, one of the North West’s leading business improvement organisations, has played an integral role in helping Chester Zoo develop the first phase of its ambitious plan to make it the largest conservation, animal and leisure attraction in Europe.

Experts from the Liverpool-based company were called in to work with the management team to decide on the approach to the £90million first phase of the Natural Vision project, which will include the only domed ecosystem in the UK.

Called ‘Heart of Africa’, the bio-dome will be an African rainforest-themed sanctuary for a band of Gorillas, a large troop of chimpanzees, Okapi (rare giraffe-like creatures), and a wide variety of tropical birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates.

Led by organisational development specialist Rebekah Ayres, the CPD team facilitated a workshop for key Chester Zoo staff to help shape the best possible visitor experience.

One of the big challenges was to ensure that the project underpinned the importance of animal welfare and the need for that to come first in any development work.

But the organisation also had to look at the opportunity Heart of Africa would provide to bring people into the zoo and educate them on the world’s conservation and biodiversity needs.

“It was important to allow everyone, whether on the commercial side or dealing with animal welfare or conservation, the opportunity to participate fully in the exercise,” said Rebekah. “By us looking after the process they could focus on their ideas and contributions,” she added.

CPD designed a session that encouraged free-thinking, to help zoo staff get away from considering the opportunity in functional ‘silos’, to stimulate discussion and help the management team come up with their outline plan.

Established in 1997, CPD  provides a tailored training and development service which enables organisational improvement through people.

Via its three strands of diagnosis, development and delivery, CPD employs experts in field to advise and assist both public and private companies to meet their growth targets.

Rebekah said, “Over the years we have built a great relationship with the Zoo’s management team and it was good to be involved in their most exciting development project ever. Encouraging people to think freely and creatively as a team rather than as a group of individuals delivered some great results.”

Chester Zoo – which celebrates its 75th anniversary in May – already welcomes 1.3 million visitors a year, more than any other zoo in the UK.

It is expected that number will increase to 1.6 million on completion of the first phase, and 2 million visitors per year on completion of the full project.

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