Latest news from Friends of Exploris:
Latest news from Friends of Exploris:
Extending the stay on closure for a further 2 months, the Council will now spend additional monies making more revisions to its business case, which has been subject to on-going negotiations with the DoE since it was first submitted in January.
The Council also responded positively to a further requirement that it give at least a 5 year commitment to the aquarium and, as requested by the DoE, will seek the support of the North Down and Ards Statutory Committee (STC) for the same condition.
The Council’s business case proposals centre on reducing the deficit to what it believes to be an acceptable level – from around £500,000 each year to £200,000.
However, the reduced running costs are only possible with a commitment from central government to include revenue for the Seal Sanctuary from the Department of the Environment, together with a substantial one-off capital grant of approximately £900,000.
The Council will submit a final version of the business case and plan to DoE next week for consideration by the Executive in April.
Three of the Directors of Friends of Exploris Trust met with Officers
of Ards Borough Council in Exploris on Wednesday 12th March. The
Officers outlined the work that has been done with the business plan
for Exploris since the last Council meeting in February. The plan had
been presented to and approved by the Statutory Transitional Council.
Council Officers had met with officials of the Department of the
Environment the previous week and had been asked to make further
amendments. The business plan was returned to DOE on Monday 10th and
by Tuesday afternoon a list of further amendments to be made had been
emailed back to the Council. On each of these occasions the Council
was told that once these amendments had been made the business plan
would be forwarded on to the Department of Finance and Personnel and
to the Executive. On each occasion the goalposts appeared to change.
Friends of Exploris is impressed by the effort that the Council has
put into developing this plan and believe that the Council is doing
its utmost to meet all the demands being made by the civil servants at
the Department of the Environment. The Council Officers have been very
frank with us and are insistent on ongoing direct communication with
Friends of Exploris Trust. The Council also hopes to continue to work
with Friends of Exploris Trust in the future development of Exploris.
Friends of Exploris Trust has agreed to continue to support the
Council by lobbying and in any other way that we can in order to save
Friends of Exploris Trust
Since the previous email from Julia we have been informed that the final version of the business plan for Exploris has even delivered to DOE. It then has to go to DFP and be tabled before the Executive.
The business plan for the future of Exploris, prepared by Ards Borough Council, has been examined by the Department of the Environment and was returned to Ards BC for minor clarifications, last month. This was to be corrected and a more final version returned to the Executive in Stormont, who are being asked to fund a refurbishment of facilities in Exploris.
We believe that this has not been followed through, and the revised business plan has never been sent back to the Executive.
Time is running out — there are only 2 weeks left till the next Council meeting — and this is extremely urgent. If Ards Borough Council has not got funding *confirmed* from the Executive before 26 March, they will proceed to close and dispose of Exploris. This funding depends on the business plan being finalised and returned to Stormont!
Please help! Pressure Ards Borough Council to act on this. DOE has already promised funding, and more is available from the Executive, if we only follow due process.
We are asking everyone to phone, email, and tweet
Mayor Stephen McIlveen – (028) 9187 1441 / firstname.lastname@example.org / @StephenMcIlveen
Mr Ashley Boreland (chief executive) – (028) 9182 4004 / email@example.com
Thank you for your support
Dr Julia Sigwart
Chair, Friends of Exploris Trust