THREE Cheshire West MPs have called on the Government to reconsider its "illogical" decision to keep Chester Zoo closed indefinitely.

The hugely popular attraction revealed the devastating news it was fighting for its future today (Wednesday) as the prolonged closure due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown has meant it has lost almost all its income.

Jamie Christon, the zoo’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), said: "The Government has ordered us to stay closed indefinitely and Chester Zoo is very much fighting for its future. This change in law has flicked a switch for us and, heartbreakingly, our lights are now flickering.

"Not being able to open, despite being a huge outdoor site with all the necessary safety measures in place, is having a devastating impact of the future survival of this much-loved charity zoo. We’re heading towards debt in excess of £24m by the end of 2020 – this will financially cripple us.

“We absolutely refuse to cut corners when it comes to caring for the animals. But ensuring that each and every one of the 35,000 animals at the zoo is receiving the best possible care, every single day, comes at a huge financial cost."

Now Labour MPs Chris Matheson (City of Chester), Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) and Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) have co-written a letter to George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, saying it would be a "travesty" if Chester Zoo was to be lost as a consequence of Covid-19.

They also urge the Secretary of State to reconsider the position on keeping all zoos closed indefinitely during the pandemic.

The change in the regulations was made on Monday, specifically adding zoos and aquariums, among other attractions such as theme parks, to the businesses which are prohibited from reopening.

Separately, Mr Matheson said: "The decision by ministers not to allow Chester Zoo to reopen is appalling, absurd and highly damaging.

"Why should ornamental gardens such as Kew or Tatton Park, or even Alton Towers be allowed to open but not our zoo, which has 128 acres of outdoor space and carefully worked plans to manage visitor numbers and regulate visitor flows for those inside?

"This will have a seriously detrimental effect on the future of the zoo which is bad for Chester economically; but it would also undermine the world leading environmental and sustainability work led by our zoo, such as their world-renowned sustainable palm oil campaign.

"I spoke briefly to George Eustice, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs yesterday, but it seems the decision may have been have been taken in Downing Street.

"This is yet another example of the chaos in Government. I am in regular touch with the zoo at the moment and will try to get the Government to reverse this daft and damaging decision at the earliest opportunity because in this instance, every day truly counts."

The letter says Chester Zoo's future has been "placed in jeopardy by the Government's direction for zoos to stay closed indefinitely".

It added it was "illogicial" for places such as the nearby Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village to reopen, for people to shop indoors, but not to reopen Chester Zoo, which was not reopening its indoor enclosures and had a whole host of measures lined up to allow social distancing and safe visits.

The letter added all three MPs had been "inundated" with emails from "deeply upset" residents worried at the risk Chester Zoo will be lost.

Full text of the letter:

We are writing with regards to the future of Chester Zoo, which has been placed in jeopardy by the Government’s direction for zoos to stay closed indefinitely.

While it is fully recognised that there is the need to reopen businesses in a safe manner, it seems illogical that Chester Zoo must remain closed while ticketed gardens are re-opening and non-essential retail will be opening in just a few weeks. This means that Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village will be permitted to re-open and people will be able to shop indoors, while a few miles away Chester Zoo, which sits on 128 acres and can be largely accessed outdoors, will remain closed.

We are aware that Chester Zoo have established a plan for reopening that is covid secure by the managing the numbers that can enter the zoo, and ensuring the social distancing can be adhered to. It would be interesting if you could confirm whether these plans have been considered by Ministers. Unlike much of the Government’s own plans and announcements, Chester Zoo have been pro-active and clear on the processes that will be put in place and it is understand that the local authority are satisfied that the zoo can reopen safely.

It is appreciated that the Zoos Support Fund has been established to assist in covering animal-care costs with grants of up to £100,000 however, as the literature on the fund states itself, this scheme “not a guarantee to save every zoo and aquarium business or job”. This appears to be coming to fruition as Chester Zoo is now in the position where £1.6 million must be raised each month or the zoo will be lost.

We have all been inundated with emails from constituents who are deeply upset at the risk that we will lose Chester Zoo and all the invaluable work they do for conservation and education, as well as their ground-breaking campaigning, such as their recent palm oil project. The zoo has also been active in ensuring it is accessible for those children at schools who have been unable to visit due to monetary constraints by offering over 36,000 free places. Not to mention that the loss of Chester Zoo would represent a severe loss to the local economy and would see jobs disappear, both permanent and seasonal.

It would be a travesty for Chester Zoo to be lost as a consequence of covid-19 and so we urge you to outline clearly on what basis zoos must stay closed indefinitely. If the science indicates it is safe for ticketed gardens to reopen, then we would ask that you reconsider your position on the reopening of zoos as a priority.