Ards council backs Executive cash for Exploris

The council-run Exploris aquarium in Portaferry
The council-run Exploris aquarium in Portaferry

Ards Borough Council has agreed to accept the Executive’s financial offer to help rescue the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry.

The council agreed in principle on Wednesday evening to accept £914k capital funding and up to £120K revenue funding from the Executive.

The agreement is subject to the council receiving detailed terms and conditions from the Department of the Environment which would allow the renovation of the facility. It is also conditional upon gaining the necessary approval from the North Down and Ards District Council.

Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith said: “Ards Borough Council welcomes the NI Executive’s decision about funding of the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, and looks forward to receiving details about the terms and conditions and how to access it.

“The offer of funding is a vindication of the Council’s argument throughout this process that the Aquarium is a regional facility, and not solely the responsibility of this Council or Ards ratepayers and I am delighted that it looks like the facility can be saved, while reducing the financial burden on the ratepayer.”

Since September last year, the council has delayed its decision to close the aquarium to give the Executive time to make firm offers of a funding package, to include revenue for the Seal Sanctuary from the Department of the Environment, together with a substantial one-off capital grant of approximately £900,000.

The council says its business plan will make the facility financially sustainable and reduce its running costs from £500k to £200k per year.

The plan includes partnership with other interested parties, reduced staffing and the possibility of seasonal opening hours.