Planning permission runs out for NIRAH aquarium

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Planning permission for the NIRAH aquarium has expired, leading to calls for an explanation into where millions of pounds invested in the project has gone.

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.

Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils are also owed £1.6m.

The freshwater aquarium and leisure 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.  

It was thought the land would go back into both councils' hands if the project failed, but that is now being disputed and the taxpayer may have to buy the land back from NIRAH, reports the BBC. The value of the land is not yet known.

Mid-Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries has called for an explanation into the matter.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Bedfordshire Consortium Ltd is in active discussions with NIRAH about repayment of the loan and the security held over the site."

NIRAH has yet to comment.