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Liverpool and Bedfordshire fight over Grimshaw's massive aquarium

Grimshaw Architects' massive £375 million freshwater sanctuary project is caught in a tug-of-war between Bedfordshire and Liverpool councils.

The National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH) has reopened talks to build the world's largest aquarium, featuring two massive 35m-high biodomes, in Liverpool - 18 months after discussions with the city council were abandoned and the site moved to Bedford.

NIRAH chose the Bedfordshire clay pit site ahead of Liverpool's Central Docks because then Liverpool Council chief executive Sir David Henshaw said there was no space in the city.

NIRAH subsequently down-sized the scheme, and chose Bedford because of its proximity to London and three universities.

The move led to NIRAH being accused of having a 'southern bias' by former Liverpool Council leader Mike Storey.

However talks have now stalled following a series of rows between Bedfordshire Council and NIRAH, reportedly over financial issues.

This has led Liverpool Land Development Company (LLDC) to take this opportunity to step in and reopen talks with NIRAH about the prospect of moving back to the North West.

The project is initially being bankrolled by Bedfordshire Council and the East of England Development Agency, and NIRAH has received a £4 million loan from the two.

However, NIRAH apparently tried to secure a £600,000 loan from the original £4 million but was not happy with the demands, claiming they were 'deliberately framed' with unacceptable conditions.

Legal advice is now being sought by Bedfordshire Council.

by Richard Vaughan

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