The decision to save Northern Ireland’s sole aquarium from the axe has been condemned by one politician.
UKIP’s David McNarry, MLA for Strangford where the Exploris attraction is based, has hit out at the decision to provide a block of public cash to renovate the facility and halt its closure.
The plans were announced by the Department of the Environment (DoE) on Thursday, but included little detail about the funding package.
Yesterday, the DoE said that the full figure being offered is £900,000.
All of that will be used to revamp the attraction, and not to support its running costs.
Upon learning of the news, Mr McNarry said: “It’s a mistake. Unfortunately it’s money that’s going to be thrown away, and it won’t take long before they’re knocking on the door again.
“Exploris just cannot finance itself. The council proved that.
“I am all for an aquarium. But as I said before, Exploris, where it is, is the wrong place.”
Ards Borough Council runs the facility, which has made a roughly £600,000 annual loss in the past.
Attempts to get a private owner to take it on had proved fruitless.
Johnny Andrews, spokesman for the NI Conservatives, said yesterday the council should be “much braver about changing the management structure at Exploris”.
He added: “We believe the best option is to run the aquarium as a public/private sector enterprise. This model works brilliantly at the Titanic visitor centre, which is managed efficiently by a private company, but remains in public ownership.”
Exploris now largely displays fish found in Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.
It had previously been suggested that an overhaul of the facility could see more exotic species added to its tanks.
Elaine Roddy, secretary of Friends of Exploris, which has campaigned to save the aquarium, had hailed the funding package.
But as for adding more tropical species she said the whole idea of the attraction was to show off native ones, and there is “absolutely no reason” to change that.