Ards Borough Council has tonight (26 March) agreed to meet a series of additional conditions from the Department of the Environment to ensure a funding package for Exploris can be considered by the NI Executive.
A Council spoekesperson said: “Extending the stay on closure for a further two months, the Council will now spend additional monies making more revisions to its business case, which has been subject to on-going negotiations with the DoE since it was first submitted in January.
“The Council also responded positively to a further requirement that it give at least a five year commitment to the aquarium and, as requested by the DoE, will seek the support of the North Down and Ards Statutory Committee (STC) for the same condition.
“The Council’s business case proposals centre on reducing the deficit to what it believes to be an acceptable level – from around £500,000 each year to £200,000.
“However, the reduced running costs are only possible with a commitment from central government 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 will submit a final version of the business case and plan to the DoE next week for consideration by the Executive in April.”
The community of Portaferry and the Lower Ards area will now be much relieved that the dialogue between the Executive, DoE and Ards Borough Council is now focussed well on a lasting solution to the key issue of keeping the aquarium and seal sanctuary open which many have thought would spell disaster for Portaferry if the Exploris aquarium closed.