Published Wednesday, 25 September 2013
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The decision was made at Ards Borough Council during a meeting on Wednesday evening following a discussion on the future of the Portaferry aquarium and seal sanctuary.
Around 200 people gathered outside the offices to protest against closing Exploris.
Last week the council's Development Committee said it would have to consider shutting the popular centre with "deep regret". That decision will now be deferred.
A statement from the council said: "Ards Borough Council has agreed unanimously to defer the closure of Exploris, the aquarium and seal sanctuary in Portaferry.
"It was agreed that the closure would be stayed for two months, to allow for firm proposals for alternative funding to come from central government departments - Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), Environment (DoE) and Education (DE)."
Thousands of people have joined a Facebook campaign to save Exploris after a private company, which was planning to take over the running of the facility, pulled out of the deal over pension arrangements for staff leaving the centre in limbo.
Ards Borough Council said it has been searching for a private investor in a bid to reduce the £600,000 financial cost of the centre picked up by the ratepayer.
However, the company which was to manage the facility, Livingstone Leisure, withdrew from the process, after confirming that, under the rules which apply in Northern Ireland, it was unable to put in place the broadly comparable pension scheme required for existing staff.
Ards Borough Council has owned and operated the aquarium since 1987 and invested over £10m during that time. Originally, it began life as the Northern Ireland Aquarium to showcase the diverse marine life that exists around Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.
In 1994, it was re-branded and officially opened as Exploris by Prince Charles.
The seal sanctuary, which provides for the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, orphaned and injured seal pups, was opened in 1999.
Councillor Philip Smith, Deputy Mayor of Ards, said: "While there has never been any indication of a subvention for Exploris from central government, there does now appear to be a possibility that funding could be made available.
"Our decision allows time for that option to be explored. However, we do have to emphasise that the decision to close still stands if external funding is not forthcoming".
© UTV News