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East of England Liberal Democrats

Mayor Dave Calls for Inquiry into 'Scandalous Loss of Public Money' as NIRAH Saga Ends

July 22, 2015 9:15 AM
Originally published by Dave Hodgson - Mayor of Bedford Borough

Dave Hodgson with Town Bridge behind

Mayor Dave Hodgson has called for an inquiry following news of the closure of the sorry saga of the failed 'NIRAH' project, which will result in just a fraction of funds loaned by the former Bedfordshire County Council and East of England Development Agency being returned to the taxpayer. Mayor Dave has slammed the 'scandalous loss of public money,' and is calling for answers as to how such a massive amount of public funds locally were squandered on a scheme which was never close to coming to fruition.
Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "This is a scandalous loss of public money, on a massive scale. I have serious questions about how and why such a vast amount of taxpayers' money was loaned to a commercial scheme lacking commercial investment, and I know local residents do too. That is why I have written to the Chair of the Council Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee and have asked that it conducts an open inquiry into this matter.'
"We need answers, in order that those responsible for this massive loss of taxpayers' money are held to account, and in order that it can never happen again."

NIRAH stands for 'National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats.' The plans for the project included a £600 million aquarium to be constructed on land near Stewartby. The facility would have been of vast proportions, six times the size of the renowned Eden project in Cornwall. However, despite achieving outline planning permission back in 2007, the project never achieved the private investment it required, and administrators confirmed it had been sold off, with creditors including Bedford Borough Council (which inherited the debt from the now-defunct Bedfordshire County Council) set to receive a tiny fraction of money which had been loaned to the scheme.