The opening of a brand new accessible toilet block has made it easier for families and visitors to enjoy a day out at Newquay Zoo.

Last week saw staff and families celebrating the official opening of a specialist Changing Places facility which can accommodate bigger wheelchairs and provide a bed and the necessary hoists.

Newquay Zoo Operations Manager Mike Finnegan said: “We have brought in mobile accessible facilities a few times, and the number of people responding positively each time reinforced our belief that the right thing to do was to build something permanent. This facility allows greater accessibility for more people and breaks down some barriers.” The new block is close to the entrance, with a RADAR key available from Reception.

Dave Robinson, Facilities Manager at Newquay Zoo, had the honour of cutting the ribbon on the new facility. Dave said: “I’ve been here for 12 years and have been involved in almost every project we have undertaken, but this is the most rewarding. It’s been a lot of hard work but myself and my maintenance team have learned a lot from the experience - these facilities will really mean a lot to those who use them.

“It means families and visitors can come and enjoy the zoo and relax without having to worry about how long they can spend here and how they or their loved ones are going to be able to use the toilets. Hopefully this will also see more places in Cornwall following our lead and making attractions and businesses more accessible for everyone.”

For the opening, staff members were joined by Sandy Lawrence from the Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme along with 12-year-old Adam, his mum Rachel and their family.

Sandy said: “Newquay Zoo have been amazing in their support for families with disabled children. We come here often as a disabled children’s charity and having a safe place they can get clean and sort themselves out means we can come and enjoy the Zoo far more often.”

Rachel George said: “What Newquay Zoo has done here has told us we are not only welcome here but we are expected. Their attitude is great and they have shown an interest in looking at other areas where access is difficult.”

Director of Guest Services Helen Warren explained: “This new toilet facility is an improvement that we are all very proud of. We want to keep improving our services and facilities for guests, and have been looking at all aspects of accessibility across the entire site. We want to improve many of our viewing areas, and to this end have recently made changes to the fishing cat enclosure.”

There are plans for wheelchair-friendly picnic benches; bark chippings have already been replaced to make it easier for wheelchairs to move around. Staff also hope to lower a kerb at the end of the slide in the children’s playground so that wheelchairs can get closer.

Newquay Zoo is one of ten places in Cornwall to have installed the Changing Places facilities and are hopeful they will inspire more places to do so.

The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust itself also hopes to install more Changing Places facilities at its sites in the future

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