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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 20:14 GMT
40-hectare aquarium to be built
The centre will be a world leader in aquatic research
A huge aquarium is to be built on the site of a disused brick works in Bedfordshire.

The bio-dome complex at Stewartby near Bedford will rival the Eden project in Cornwall, cover 40 hectares and be enclosed under massive domes.

The National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH) will be built as a research facility and a tourist attraction.

Four times the size of Eden, NIRAH will cost 250m and employ 2,500 people.

The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has already loaned the project 4m to survey the site, draw up the business plan and try to raise the cash it needs.

Two million visitors

The EEDA says at least 20m a year will be ploughed back into the Bedfordshire economy.

Under the centre's domes will be recreations of the Amazon Basin and the Mekong Delta, stocked with tropical trees and plants and thousands of species of freshwater fish, amphibians and reptiles.

George Kieffer one of the leaders on the Bedfordshire NIRAH Consortium said: "This is fantastic news for the region and especially Bedfordshire.

"The centre will offer an unrivalled resource for researchers in the biosciences and is set to be an important tourist attraction not only for the region but nationally in the UK and in Europe."

Bedfordshire County Council was in competition with Merseyside and South Wales.

If the plans are approved the centre could be running by 2010.

Aquarium project attracts critics
10 Dec 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Sea life 'suffering in captivity'
27 Sep 04 |  Scotland
All creatures great and small
29 Sep 02 |  Science/Nature

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