Belfast Telegraph

Firm behind £12m Belfast aquarium also plans evening functions at venue

Plan: Artist’s impression of the site
Plan: Artist’s impression of the site
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The £12m aquarium proposed for Belfast's Titanic Quarter will potentially become a venue for private evening events, according to new documents.

More detail of the major project has emerged after London aquarium company ReefLive filed planning documents to support its application.

The aquarium is set to open in spring next year if it wins planning permission.

When it comes to sourcing its sea life, the company says it plans to use the surplus lists from other UK and European aquariums, or from other trusted and reputable suppliers. But all animals destined for the aquarium will be subjected to 30 days of quarantine.

According to the design and access statement, the sea creatures will only enter the exhibits once they are healthy and fully recovered from the stress of transportation, a proceess which will be overseen by a specalist vet.

And they are to be fed "only the best quality foods and supplements". Each animal will have their own diet devised for its long-term health.

They will live in mains water which has been passed through a process to remove unwanted chemicals, and then mixed with aquarium grade sea salt.

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ReefLive wants to build the tourist attraction on a car park next to We Are Vertigo, close to Belfast Met, Titanic Belfast and Titanic Hotel. It's estimated that it will draw around 300,000 visitors a year.

In the statement making up part of its application, the company says it will create "memorable and personal experiences" for visitors "that they can relate to and be part of (and share on social media)". The firm also hopes that the aquarium will become a night-time attraction, with "unique corporate and private hire opportunities" beside the main Coral Reef Ocean tank.

It said the proposals took into account the proximity of the listed Titanic Hotel, with the eaves line no higher than the upper cornice of the hotel.

The statement also says that the choice of materials "reflects the historic context of the docks and their industrial past".

The ground floor of the building will feature the ticketing, shop and cafe, while the facade of the upper floor will have a "triangulated motif" which reflects the materials used in Titanic Belfast to add interest and detail.

As well as live aquarium displays, the development will use digital augmented reality and other audio-visual methods "to tell vital conservation stories of those animals that cannot and should not be kept in captivity".

It's expected that visitors would spend between 1.5 and two hours on-site, with special tours offered such as dive experiences, behind-the-scenes tours and virtual reality ice dives.

The statement says that the directors of ReefLive "have a long and successful track record in aquaria, both delivering them and running them".

And the statement says they hope that the attraction will support other investment in the area.

The aquarium will take up a total floorspace of 2,912 metres squared.

Belfast Telegraph