Sandra Overend MLA, Ulster Unionist representative on the Enterprise Trade & Investment Committee , said after her visit to Exploris today:
“The ETI Committee held a briefing session at Exploris to hear from Portaferry Regeneration Group, Friends of Exploris, NIPSA and Ards Borough Council in relation to the future of the centre and to ascertain what role we could play in ensuring the Enterprise Minister steps up to the mark and recognises the regionality of the aquarium.
“It was beneficial to hear the detail behind the decision made by Ards Borough Council to close Exploris and to ascertain if there are any sources from which financial help can be sought. It seems to me that the management and future of Exploris has been overlooked during the pursuit of a private buyer.
“I was rather disappointed to learn that the Council had no Marketing Officer since 2007 and that the budget for this Department remained static apart from one recent injection.
“I understand that discussions with regard to regional funding have been initiated, however I was surprised to learn that the Enterprise Minister was not approached for help, considering her Department’s significant role in promoting tourism, and how this facility could boost the local economy on the Ards Peninsula.
“Finally, I was rather disappointed by the tone of the discussion with the Council representatives and the absence of a ‘can do’ attitude. Surely, having so much to offer at Exploris, there is great potential for enhancement should it receive the injection of finance it very much needs from the Executive and the Council, as well as a fresh and positive attitude for future development.”