NIRAH aquarium: Government seeks 'evidence of progress'


The group behind a giant aquarium project, which was supposed to have been finished two years ago, and which has millions of pounds of public money invested in it, has been told by the government that it wants to see "evidence of progress", reports the BBC.

The National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH) was loaned £2m by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the gigantic £375m domed complex to be built at a disused brick pit in Stewartby, Bedfordshire in 2007, but work on the huge scientific research centre, which would have doubled as a major tourist attraction four times the size of the Eden Project, never began.

NIRAH planned to house the world's largest freshwater aquarium at the complex, which would also have provided a unique opportunity for researchers to work on a range of species. Its aim was to focus on freshwater organisms, rather than the marine fishes and invertebrates kept in most of the UK's other aquarium attractions. But NIRAH now has only a few months left before its planning permission expires.

Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils are also owed £1.6m. The complex would have brought increased revenue from the tourism industry to Bedforshire and the UK and early reports on the project suggested it could create up to 2,500 jobs.

The BBC report adds that in a Freedom of Information request, it has emerged that accumulated interest on the government loan makes it worth more than £3.5m, although it's unknown how much interest there is on the loan by the councils.  

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "It remains a priority for us to continue to receive updates from NIRAH and we expect them to provide us with positive evidence of progress in the near future, as the current position is not sustainable over the longer term.

"We are currently in the process of assessing all options available to the department and the consortium."

NIRAH was unavailable for comment.

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