Fresh fears over Exploris closure

Published Wednesday, 28 May 2014
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Ards Borough Council has said it is to begin consultation on the potential closure of Exploris following a lack of response from the Northern Ireland Executive to its request for financial support.

The aquarium and seal sanctuary in Portaferry, Co Down was ear-marked for closure by the council last September due to unmanageable running costs.

The decision was halted in November while the council began negotiations, seeking revenue from the Department of the Environment and a capital grant of £900k.

"As outlined in a business case submitted to the Executive by Ards Borough Council this funding would have made the facility a sustainable operation, reducing running costs of the facility to an acceptable burden for the ratepayer from around £500k each year to £200k," a statement said.

On Wednesday evening Ards Borough Council agreed to commence a formal consultation process and equality impact assessment on the potential closure of the facility following a lack of response to its business case and request for funding.

The council called on the Environment Minister and Executive to formally respond to its bid for financial support.

Expressing disappointment and frustration that no financial package had been forthcoming, the Deputy Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith commented: "This proposal is not the Council giving up on Exploris, but it must have the financial support of the Executive.

"Without the actions proposed we will expose rate payers to greater financial risk, and continued indecision is unfair to our staff and other stakeholders.

"The Council has done its bit and it is now up to the DoE Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive to step up to the mark. Should an offer of funding from the Executive be forthcoming the Council will review this decision."

The council said an equality impact assessment, which will take around four months, will now begin and Exploris remains open.

© UTV News
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2 Comments
Belfast in Nelfast wrote (62 days ago):
Have been there twice this year and the place was at full capacity. Alrhough it is a great place to spend an hour, the entry charge is way to much. The place is grubby and tired and the tanks are dirty and a bit repetative. A new display with tropical fish and corals would be a lot more interesting than endless grey fish from the british coast. I understand that they are trying to showcase our own species but, as i said, diversity and more colour would be more interesting.
David in Ards Peninsula wrote (63 days ago):
Cllr Phillip Smith tells UTV News that visitor numbers to Exploris Aquarium are falling and closure proceedings are now beginning. What does Ards Borough Council expect when they sack the Marketing Officer and don't replace that person? For the last few years the Council have let the Aquarium amble on "as is". A Marketing or Publicity Officer in place at the Aquarium could have seen high visitor figures each year and we wouldn't be in the current situation. How many of the Ards Borough Councillors have visited the Aquarium and paid the admission fee to help keep the place open?
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