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Go-ahead for Belfast aquarium that's set to draw 300,000 visitors

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A design of what the new aquarium will look like

A design of what the new aquarium will look like

A design of what the new aquarium will look like

A major £12m (€13m) aquarium which could create more than 50 full-time jobs for Belfast looks set to get the go-ahead.

The new tourist spot could see as many as 300,000 visitors each year, according to those behind the attraction, if it gets planning approval next week for its Titanic Quarter site.

It's set to be the biggest attraction of its kind on the island of Ireland.

Belfast City Council planners are recommending the new development is given planning approval.

The firm behind the project, ReefLive, says that around 80 to 100 construction jobs could be created during the construction phase of the project, with 51 full-time posts being created when it opens its doors, subject to getting the planning green light.

The aquarium would be a two-storey building, based across more than 30,000 sq ft, and it would include a cafe, coral reef ocean tank, with the main exhibition space across five zones on the first floor - themed as Ireland, Deep Ocean, Azores, Pacific and Arctic.

It is expected that visitors would spend between one and a half and two hours on-site, with tours such as dive experiences, behind-the-scenes tours and virtual reality ice dives.

Some 13 representations were received in relation to the application, including 10 letters of objection.

Concerns included the impact on traffic and travel, the impact on heritage for both listed buildings and monuments, flooding and the potential negative impact on the Portaferry aquarium in Co Down, which is located just one hour from Belfast.

The aquarium's exterior has been designed by Ethos Architects. while the interior has been devised by aquarium design team led by Kay Elliott Architects.

Those behind the tourist attraction say it is "anticipated that the ReefLive Aquarium will be the largest marine-life visitor attraction on the island of Ireland and in bringing another international-standard attraction to the Titanic Quarter, will help to boost the length of each tourist visit to the city".

In recommending the scheme for approval, the city planners said that "the proposal is considered and approval of planning permission is recommended with delegated authority given to the director of planning and building control to finalise the wording of conditions subject to no new substantive planning issues being raised by third parties".

Irish Independent