Northern Ireland

Ards councillors accept £1m from executive to save Exploris

Image caption Exploris costs Ards Council £600,000 a year to maintain

Ards Borough Council have accepted an offer of almost £1m from the executive to keep open and redevelop the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry.

Approval will also be needed from the new North Down and Ards District Council before it can proceed.

Exploris houses marine exhibitions and a seal sanctuary on the shores of Strangford Lough.

Councillors also agreed a specialist contractor should be appointed to help rejuvenate the aquarium.

Speaking after a council meeting on Wednesday evening, the Mayor of Ards Philip Smith, said it was good news for Exploris.

"We are keen to not only retain it, but to develop it, to make it a more attractive facility, to market it more effectively and that has required the monies that hopefully we are now going to get," he said.

"It is a positive decision, we're taking it forward, but we still need the new council, the new Ards and North Down Council, to make a decision and to support this as well."

The offer consists of £914,000 in capital funding and £120,000 in revenue funding.

Last month, the Northern Ireland Executive approved funding to save the County Down aquarium.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said £900,000 capital funding would be earmarked for the aquarium, which had been under threat of closure by its owner, Ards Borough Council.

The council said that the £600,000 annual cost of running it was too high.

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