A £6.5 million SEA LIFE Aquarium has been granted planning permission to open at the Trafford Centre, despite 18 letters of objection, including one from an animal rights charity.

The attraction will open in the Barton Square section of the retail centre in Spring 2013.
Liz Tyson spoke on behalf of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) at a Trafford Council planning committee meeting last week.

She asserted that animals in 74 per cent of UK public aquaria show evidence of physical health problems, most commonly lacerations are seen in sharks and rays.

Miss Tyson said: “The conservation role of aquaria is, at best, limited and, at worst, damaging.”

She argued that although 40 jobs will be created by the aquarium, they are likely to be for people with specialist qualifications who are not from Trafford, therefore not boosting employment in the area.

She added: “It will cost £56.40 to enter and it is in one of the most deprived areas of Trafford – residents will simply not be able to afford.”

Michelle Steele spoke on behalf of Merlin Entertainments, which operates SEA LIFE, she said the aquarium is one of the leading organisations in terms of animal welfare and emphasised the employment benefits of the aquarium.

Cllr Laurence Walsh said: “The protection of animals is important but we can’t refuse applications on those grounds as this is a planning committee.”

Committee vice chairman, Cllr Daniel Bunting seconded Cllr Walsh and rejected the idea that people in Trafford are ‘too poor’ to enjoy the aquarium and asserted that as Trafford has many educational institutions, he is confident the specialist jobs could be secured by people in the area.

Chairman, Cllr Vivienne Ward, said: “Forty jobs is certainly not to be sniffed at and we are here to generate business.”

The application was passed unanimously by the committee.

In response to the decision, Gordon McKinnon, director of operations at the Trafford Centre, said: “We are delighted that Merlin’s plans for the new SEA LIFE aquarium have been approved by Trafford Council planning committee, and we’re very excited to be moving on to the next stage in construction of what will be a major new family attraction in the north west.”

Russell Barnes, from Merlin Entertainments said: “At SEA LIFE we’re passionate about preserving marine habitats and protecting the incredible species that live in them.”