Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

All hands on deck if Exploris to be saved

Charlotte Julia Stone in Byron Bay lends her support to the Save Exploris Campaign

Threatened Exploris Aquarium cannot be saved by just one Minister, a local MLA has said.

Speaking after Environment Minister Mark H Durkan potentially threw the Portaferry aquarium and seal sanctuary a life-line during Assembly Question Time on Monday (November 11) in the form of a one-off grant.

Mr Durkan said the move would depend on three factors : an assurance from Ards Borough Council that there would be long-term support for the aquarium; that the council would supply a suitable business case justifying the grant, and that his ministerial partners on the Stormont Executive are prepared to support the one-off payment.

Mr McCarthy welcomed the Minister's support, but called on Ards Borough Council and Ministers from the other relevant departments to offer their support.

"I commend the efforts taken by the Environment Minister to try and save Exploris. But his department does not have the resources to single-handedly salvage Exploris from closure," he said.

"I would urge Ministers from the other relevant departments to get involved and pledge financial support to save Exploris. However, Ards Borough Council must take the lead on this.

"The Environment Minister has made it clear that funding will only be available if Ards Council is open to receiving it and if the local authority can commit to providing a business case detailing how best to sustain Exploris in the long run.

"Exploris was given a two-month stay of execution, up at the end of November. We are fast approaching this cut-off date so it is essential we find a realistic solution to save Exploris immediately," he added.

The campaign to save Exploris has gained huge public support since it was announced Ards Borough Council had voted to close the facility, which costs the ratepayer around £600,000 a year.

Alternative funding to support the project is being sought, with a final decision on the aquarium's future due on November 20.

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