Vote of confidence in Exploris welcomed
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has welcomed the positive vote of support on the future of Exploris in the Assembly.
Mr. Hazzard stated,
“On average there are 100,000 visitors to Exploris every year. The added bonus of having a unique seal sanctuary and educational site adds to the visitor experience in Exploris yet Ard’s Borough Council has threatened the facility with closure.
“The Exploris centre is already recognised as a major tourist attraction for the North but given a sustained lack of investment by Ards Council we find ourselves on the verge of loosing it.
“The only way forward in the short-term at least is for a partnership model between the Council and the Assembly. In the long term it is vital that local community, business and stakeholders are involved in mapping out Exploris' future. The Friends of Exploris Campaign group must be central in this process.
During the assembly debate Mr. Hazzard commented
“All Ministers need to recognise their responsibility to this project including the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster whose remit includes tourism. "If the centre was sited in the Titanic Quarter, the Enterprise Minister would be tripping over herself to secure funding."
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Portaferry, Naomi Bailie stated;
"The support shown in the Assembly by varying parties outlines that if the political will is there we can protect the future of Exploris in the short term and also secure its long term future through further investment and different business arrangements.
“Exploris is a viable project that adds immense value to the local tourism product. Following last nights debate and vote I am hopeful that the future of the site can be secured. The onus is now on Ards Council to work with the Executive by looking at funding opportunities for maintaining this important tourist attraction. Up to now council have failed to proactively engage with the relevant departments. They must now act and stop hiding behind a cloak of complacency.
“Sinn Féin has also called for the Minister for Environment to investigate if he can over-rule the fatal ruling by Ards Council if Executive finance is not secured within the two month period required. We have further called for a cross departmental task-force to take the lead on developing a plan for Exploris' short and long term future."