WEST Midland Safari Park's new managing director says he is "disappointed" by government rule changes which prohibit the attraction from reopening this month.

The park has announced the appointment of its former accommodation and venues director Chris Kelly to the top role - replacing Darren Chorley, who had worked at the park for more than 25 years.

Chris joined the company in January 2020 and will now be in charge of leading the attraction and overseeing the build of luxury new Safari Lodges, which includes upgrades to cheetah and Elephant facilities.

In his previous post, Chris worked as short breaks director at Port Lympne Hotel for seven years.

On his appointment, Chris said: “I am excited to be taking the helm here at West Midland Safari Park.

"I grew up in the Midlands and the park has always been a favourite place to visit.

"I am hugely passionate about the attraction industry, and even though the pandemic sees us in some challenging times, I have a great team here and I’m confident we can bounce back and work to a new normal.

“Myself and all the staff would like to thank Darren for being such an integral part of the park.

"His contribution and dedication over the years have helped develop it as one of the region’s most popular and well-loved family attractions.

"We wish him a well-deserved break and every success for the future.”

Speaking to The Shuttle, Chris said new government legislation enforcing the closure of animal attractions - which has put Chester Zoo at risk of an indefinite shutdown - was "disappointing".

Lockdown restrictions on outdoor zoos remain in force despite thousands of people being allowed to head to beaches, parks and small private gardens.

Chris said: "The passing of the new government legislation prohibiting all animal attractions from reopening this month is disappointing.

"We will continue to work through our reopening plan to ensure we are ready to welcome our guests back safely and hopefully this will be in the very near future.

"We’d like to thank our guests for their patience and understanding at this time."

West Midland Safari Park has been temporally closed since March 19 in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but now says it is working on plans to reopen "when it is safe to do so".