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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
Government backs aquarium project
Animal welfare groups have raised concerns over the plans
The government is backing plans for the world's largest freshwater aquarium to be built in Bedfordshire.

It has given the go-ahead for the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to provide loans for the 250m project.

The money would help the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH) develop a business plan and seek planning permission.

The bio-domed research complex and aquarium, four times the size of the Eden Project, would be at Stewartby.

The 40-hectare complex in an old brickworks is the brainchild of an international team of biologists and conservationists.

Economic impact

It would be designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, who was responsible for the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The world's largest aquarium would be stocked with tropical trees and plants and populated by thousands of species of freshwater fish, amphibians and reptiles.

George Kieffer, deputy chair at the East of England Development Agency and one of the leaders on the Bedfordshire NIRAH Consortium, said the centre would generate new jobs and would have a significant impact on the economy of Bedfordshire and the East of England.

He said the Secretary of State for Productivity, Energy and Industry's approval was essential to allow the project to move forward.

It is hoped the centre, funded by the revenue from scientific research and development as well as visitor income, would boost understanding of the Earth's freshwater system and the animals that rely on it.

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

Concerns over giant aquarium plan
29 Mar 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
40-hectare aquarium to be built
15 Mar 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Aquarium project attracts critics
10 Dec 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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