A COLOURFUL new entrance to Dudley Zoo, complete with lifesize animal sculptures, has been revealed as part of plans for the multi-million pound regeneration of Castle Hill.

An application for the latest part of the scheme, to provide a single visitor entrance and 600 space car parking facility for the zoo, Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust, at a cost of £10.1m, has been submitted to Dudley Council planners.

In a bid to improve the entrances to the borough’s trio of top tourist attractions, a secondary road off the already completed Tipton Road access road will link to a new welcome plaza for Dudley Zoo, which will offer direct admission to the zoo from the car park.

The joint entrance, next to the borough archives, will also feature a manned tourist hub in the centre of the site where visitors will be able to gain information on all three attractions.

If given the go-ahead work is expected to start in late spring/early summer and will be ready for business towards the end of 2014, in the hope of driving up visitor numbers to over one million people each year.

Dudley Zoo chief executive, Peter Suddock, said: “We are pleased to see continued progress of the Castle Hill programme with the redevelopment of the car parking area.

“Our customers constantly remind us this area offers both their first and last view of Dudley and thus providing a new entrance leading directly from our car park to the zoo site will greatly enhance the visitor experience.”

The site, which is set to be linked by a land train, will also feature public art work and trail sculptures and is set to create 480 new jobs.

Councillor Shaukat Ali, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This next stage of the planning process for Castle Hill is an exciting one and forms a brand new chapter for all of the visitor attractions on the site.

“Subject to the planning application being approved a raft of positive and long term changes will bring the attractions together for the first time, creating a real sense of arrival for the area which in turn will open up a host of other development opportunities.”