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Brighton and Hove councillors want say over Brighton Sealife Centre licence
The world’s oldest operating aquarium could have its fins clipped by council chiefs.
Tens of thousands of people every year visit the Grade II listed Brighton Sealife Centre, opposite the Palace Pier.
But leaked town hall papers seen by The Argus show elected representatives on the Green-run Brighton and Hove City Council want to take control over the granting of its zoo licence in future years.
Local authority bosses also believe it is “desirable for the proper conduct” of the attraction for a councillor to sit on its ethics committee for the first time.
It comes after a number of Green party members criticised the animal welfare standards at the attraction, which helps bring in millions of pounds into the city’s economy every year.
This is despite a number of Government inspectors repeatedly finding no fault with how it is run.
Max Leviston, general manager of the Sealife Centre, refuted any suggestion that granting elected members the power to grants its licence would put the attraction on an unstable footing.
He added he hoped any councillors would take any decision on “professional rather than an opinionated view”.
Mr Leviston said: “The fact it’s a Green council may have something to do with it but there is a precedent from other areas.
“From our point of view there’s absolutely nothing to worry about and we look forward to discussing it with the council.
“There’s certainly no conflict.”
The Sealife Centre is the only classified zoo in the city and has to apply for a licence every six years.
Council officials have recommended the licence be automatically renewed when discussed next week.
However, when it returns in 2019, councillors have recommended the cross-party licensing committee has the final say over whether it can operate.
Ben Duncan, chairman of the council’s licensing committee, claimed it was about improving democracy.
He added: “At the moment if someone opposes an alcohol premises then that has to come before a panel.
“It seems entirely appropriate that this, or any other zoo in the city, is taken the same way.”
When last done in 2007, leaked documents show the Government inspector praised the work of the Sealife Centre’s bosses.
A number of Green party members have previously been critical of the animal welfare standards in the aquarium.
In the party’s 2011 election manifesto it listed a successful campaign to stop a new seal and otter enclosure at the centre as one of its victories.
It added members had since challenged the independence of government veterinary inspections to the local authority.
A council spokeswoman said: “There are no proposals to change the Sealife Centre’s licence terms or its conditions.”