Popular Blackbrook Zoological Park to open for just three days a week
A ZOO which once came close to closure following a funding crisis is now to open for just three days a week.
Blackbrook Zoological Park, in Winkhill, near Leek, has announced on its Facebook page that it will now only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week – despite its website stating it is open every day except Christmas Day.
The new opening times will run from 10am until 4pm – with a last-entry time of 3pm.
The park, which opened in 1991 and is the largest bird park in the UK, says the winter opening times will be in place until February 2013.
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But the news has sparked speculation about the what the future holds for the attraction – after some staff members claimed to have not been paid for at least three months.
One employee, who asked not to be named, said workers were still waiting for wage packets due on September 30.
She said: “In July and August when our wages were being paid into our bank accounts they weren’t paying us on time. It was about four days late, but we didn’t say anything.
“Then we were supposed to be paid on September 30 but they haven’t given us a penny. It is so frustrating.
“There are about 10 of us and they owe pretty much everyone about £500.
“They said the wages would be in by Wednesday but they weren’t.
“Most of us haven’t been in for a couple of weeks but we haven’t officially left. They said your jobs are safe but we understand you won’t want to come in until you get paid.” Staffordshire Moorlands District councillor Linda Malyon, whose Ipstones ward includes Blackbrook, said she had not heard anything about staff not being paid.
But she added: “I know they were struggling last year and I hope people continue to support it because it’s such a wonderful place.
“It would be a real shame if we lose it.
“I have been trying to get the Churnet Valley Railway to have a station there because that would bring more visitors in.”
Last year, Blackbrook launched a £75,000 fundraising appeal in a bid to ease running costs following fears it could be closed by Christmas.
But in April this year it announced it had been saved from the brink of closure after a host of generous donations were received.
Kath Riley, chairman of Winkhill and Hamps Valley Action Group, said: “I knew Blackbrook was struggling last year because of the amount of money needed to feed the animals.
“But I haven’t heard anything since.
“I thought it was on the up again.
“I only live about a mile away from the zoo and I have visited a number of times.
“It is a wonderful attraction and it would be a great shame if we lost it.
“I only hope it bounces back again.”
Blackbrook Zoological Park did not respond when contacted by The Sentinel.