£12 million reefLIVE aquarium plans recommended for approval

Belfast City Council has signalled its intent to green-light plans for a state-of-the-art aquarium in Titanic Quarter, Belfast.

Planning officers have recommended approval for reefLIVE’s £12 million aquarium on the Queen’s Road opposite the Titanic Hotel, a short distance from Titanic Belfast visitor attraction. A final decision will be taken by Belfast city councillors at a meeting of planning committee next Tuesday (18th August 2020).

The reefLIVE aquarium will create 50 new jobs once operational, as well as construction jobs and apprenticeships. Despite the current impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector, the Aquarium is expected to attract more than 300,000 visitors each year when the attraction opens its doors in 2022 as part of the city’s recovery.

The aquarium promises visitors an immersive experience using high quality live displays that will place bring to life the environment of sea creatures previously unseen on television.

Keith Thomas, Managing Director, reefLIVE Ltd commented:

“TV programmes such as the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 appeal across generations and strike a chord with a very wide audience, inspiring debate, engagement and activism about how we manage and protect our marine environment and wildlife. We believe that UK Aquaria have a responsibility to prioritise their role in promoting conservation of that environment through education and inspirational experiences.

The exhibitions within the aquarium will seek to address the public’s increased focus on environmental and sustainability issues using cutting-edge storytelling technology to showcase importance of safeguarding and preserving ocean life. He continued:

“reefLIVE Aquarium Belfast will be part of a new generation of aquaria that offer visitors a truly unique and educational experience of ocean life, its creatures and their habitats. We believe that this kind of fully involved experience can help influence or challenge behaviours, and shape the attitudes of a generation that already has so much access to information that they are no longer interested in generic or passive experiences.

“We are excited to bring together expert designers and marine biologists to tell the stories of sea life in an innovative, engaging way, offering each visitor their own personal experience. We welcome the recommendation of Belfast City Council officers, and urge the planning committee to follow their advised approval, so that we can begin the work of bring this visitor attraction to the city.”

It is anticipated that the reefLIVE Aquarium will be the largest marine-life visitor attraction on the island of Ireland and in bringing another international-standard attraction to the Titanic Quarter, will help to boost the length of each tourist visit to the city.

Brian Kelly, a director at the project’s planning consultants, Turley also commented:

“We are delighted to have supported the reefLIVE planning application it is an exciting attraction that fits with the emergence of Titanic Quarter a primary leisure quarter in the city. Investment in Northern Ireland’s tourism and leisure sector will prove vital for the region’s recovery in a post-COVID world. The aquarium plans have been enthusiastically welcomed by the general public, and city stakeholders, and we welcome the recommendation for approval by Belfast City Council officers.”

The Aquarium building has been designed by Ethos Architects, meanwhile the interior of the building has been devised by a world-leading aquarium design team led by Kay Elliott Architects and Theme 3 to create an aquarium for the 21st century.