NIRAH is coming to Bedford

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A 250 million public aquarium complex, four times bigger than the Eden Project is to be built in Bedford.

The 40-hectare domed complex, known as NIRAH, which stands for the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats, will double as both a unique research facility and a major tourist attraction.

Scientists at NIRAH will study the organisms in the facility with the aim of learning more about them so they are able to preserve the species in the wild.

Unlike virtually all other major public aquaria, NIRAH will focus on freshwater organisms rather than marine ones.

The gigantic domed complex has been designed by the architect Nicholas Grimshaw, who is famous for his design of Cornwall's Eden Project.

According to the BBC, the project will bring around 2500 jobs to the Bedford region.

Bedfordshire NIRAH Consortium leader George Kieffer told the BBC: "This is fantastic news for the region and especially Bedfordshire.

"The centre will offer an unrivalled resource for researchers in the biosciences and is set to be an important tourist attraction not only for the region but nationally in the UK and in Europe."

The project has recently come under attack from animal rights activists who oppose the keeping of fish in aquaria and disagree with NIRAH's proposals to undertake non-invasive research on the organisms on display.

Practical Fishkeeping is currently running a poll on this topic: "Is the NIRAH Project a good thing?"

If you would like to have your say, please vote now.