A buyer has been found for a tourist spot in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Blackbrook Zoological Park, in Winkhill near Leek, had been put into administration after a severe drop in visitor numbers. Now the staff at the park can look forward to a secure future after a buyer has been found.
The park had been in the hands of Newcastle-based adminstrators Barringtons Corporate Recovery since March 4, before a bid was accepted on Monday.
Now the jobs of the seven members of cafe, shop and gamekeeping staff will be safe when the deal for the park, which opened founded in 1991, is finalised.
Shop manager Mark Gains, from Uttoxeter,explained the staff had been working for free during the last five to seven months to keep the zoo open.
Now he said that he feels relieved that there is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
“It certainly has been a bit of a struggle,” the 43-year-old said. “The fact the staff haven’t been paid demonstrates how professional they have been through all this and how determined they were to keep the park open.
“We are all pleased and relieved a buyer has been found, but obviously until they cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s, we are cautiously optimistic.
“We hope to meet the new owners soon and find out what their plans are for keeping the park running and to take it forward as one of the top tourist attractions in Staffordshire.”
The popular 30-acre zoo houses one of the UK’s largest collections of birds, including penguins, storks, cassowaries and flamingoes, as well as a range of animals and reptiles.
The site had been put up for sale in the region of £350,000.
However, although no information regarding the identity of the buyer, or the amount of their accepted bid, has been released, it has been confirmed they have previous experience running zoos and wildlife parks – something Mark and the staff are happy about.
He added: “We are pleased a buyer has been found who cares about animals and shares the same values as we have for their conservation.”
Phil Wood, the managing director of Barringtons Corporate Recovery, said there had been more than 60 expressions of interest in buying Blackbrook, but only around 20 to 25 of them were considered ‘serious’ bids.
He added: “We received the successful offer on Monday and accepted.
“The next step is to get the lawyers involved to finalise the sale and hopefully it will all be completed in no longer than a month.
“The employees contracts will transfer over to the new owners and continue with them when the deal is complete, so their jobs are secure."
Mr Wood also confirmed consideration was given to the future of the animals during the tender process.
“We had an ethical position on what to do with the animals, and all but one of the bidders had background experience in dealing with zoos or nature reserves.”