Heckmondwike animal park put up for sale for £1.3m

Heckmondwike animal park put up for sale for £1.3m

Amy Davidson with Gordon the gopher

Falconer Phill Gibbons gives a display with a tawny eagle;

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

Heckmondwike rare breeds farm Ponderosa has been put up for sale with a price tag of £1.3 million.

The visitor attraction and Lakeside Restaurant will be sold as going concerns, so both staff and the dozens of animals, from llamas to lemurs, will be safe.

Businessman Howard Cook, who established Ponderosa more than 20 years ago, said he was selling up after a diagnosis of prostate cancer last year caused him to rethink his life.

It would enable him to concentrate on other projects on the remaining 80 acre at the Smithies Lane site, such as Park Farm for people with learning difficulties and plans for a 50-bed care home.

Mr Cook, who was awarded an MBE in 2005 for bridging gaps between disabled and able-bodied people, said: “We want to get the right person to buy it and work with them. I am sure any buyer will want to expand it further.”

The farm houses a number of animals including geckos, iguanas, llamas, lemurs, meerkats, owls, reindeer, snakes and spiders. There is also an outdoor children’s play area, cafe and play barn.

It attracts more than 190,000 visitors a year and last year the business had a turnover of £1.15m. The Lakeside Restaurant seats 130 and can host weddings.

Mr Cook had previously wanted to build an eco-friendly retirement complex on the wider Ponderosa site, but the plans for a 50-bed care home and 145 homes were turned down after a public inquiry.

He originally applied for planning permission in 2011 but Kirklees Council planners rejected the scheme on the basis that it would be inappropriate for Green Belt land. Mr Cook appealed and the planning inspector found in his favour but the Department for Communities and Local Government went against the planning inspector’s ruling.

Mr Cook, who turns 70 this month, underwent surgery at Bradford Royal Infirmary before Christmas, and has since been told by doctors that they “got it all”.

“It was far greater and more aggressive than they had initially thought,” he said. “Cancer has been a life-changing thing for me. It’s made me realise that I want to return to what I love doing – and that’s caring for others.”

He had had none of the symptoms of prostate cancer, but insisted doctors test him after the death of a friend from bowel cancer. That led to a lengthy operation at the hands of a surgeon using the pioneering da Vinci surgical robot at BRI.

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