New year decision on whether aquarium will close

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A decision on whether or not to close Northern Ireland's only pubic aquarium has been put back until January.

Exploris aquarium in Portaferry is run by Ards Borough Council, but lack of funds has led to the council considering closing the facility in the new year after a deal with a private investor fell through.

But now the Department of Environment has offered possible funding for the aquarium, consisting of a one-off capital grant, plus extra money to run the seal sanctuary.

A business case is being put together as requested by the department, to justify the public expenditure involved, which will be submitted in January.

Ards Borough Council has owned and operated the aquarium and seal sanctuary since 1987, during which time it has invested more than £10m in the facility. The aquarium is home to more 3,000 fish and employs 18 staff. It costs around £600,000 a year to maintain.

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