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New state-of-the-art building proposal at the Observatory

Thursday, 23 March 2017

TENTATIVE plans are being pursued to establish a new state-of-the-art building for the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP).

The landmark, which has the honour of being the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland, has the support of the ABC council, which outlined the future building proposal in its five-year tourism action plan.

The report describes the cultural and historical importance of AOP as "significant", referring to the historical origins of the Observatory in the late 18th century, when it was established due to a clause in the 1791 Irish Parliament Act.

The Planetarium was founded on the site in 1968, "greatly enhancing the organisation's public face and outreach activities". Now nearly 50 years later, the council believes that a new building on the College Hill site should be "supported and pursued".

Professor Michael G Burton, AOP chief executive, said the proposal for a new building is being explored, but stressed that the plan is currently in the "very early stages".

"There's no funding at this stage," he explained. "A variety of funding avenues will have to be explored."

Meanwhile, plans for the city's other notable landmark, the Gaol, continue apace to secure the remaining funds required for the 25m hotel redevelopment scheme, which is understood to be currently 2m short of its target.

Both schemes are highly valued by the council, as Armagh City has been singled out in its report as being the "centrepiece" to future tourism in the borough. The report cites the city's "wonderful" Georgian architecture, Cathedrals and association with St Patrick, as just some of the area's greatest strengths in attracting tourists.

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