16 April 2024

Exciting Macduff Aquarium plans unanimously approved

Exciting plans for the extension and upgrade to the North-East’s award-winning Macduff Marine Aquarium have been unanimously approved by local councillors.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Banff and Buchan Area Committee welcomed the plans which boast a striking design inspired by the coastal location and Macduff’s rich shipbuilding heritage. 

The project has financial support from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund and works are expected to start on-site in the autumn. Members of the Banff and Buchan Area Committee heard today (Tues, Apr 16) that the improvements would help fully realise the aquarium’s potential and significantly enhance the visitor experience.

The distinctive round aquarium building will be expanded to accommodate increased display and activity space and will feature a café-restaurant on the second floor boasting magnificent views over the Moray Firth and inside to the central kelp tank. Internally the central tank, general layout and displays will remain, however exhibits will be upgraded and will feature improved features and interpretation to enhance the visitor experience.

Education and conservation are at the heart of the aquarium’s operations and the expansion will provide space for a lobster hatchery and a dedicated learning room to allow hands on activities and events for learners of all ages. The lobster hatchery will see lobster larvae being grown for release into the wild to boost wild populations, be a focus of interest and support the lobster fishery in years to come.

A new external landscaped activity area to the east side of the building will also feature areas for children’s play and picnic benches, while pathways will be created to connect into the existing coastal path networks and to the wider area. There will also be improved biodiversity planting and wider public realm enhancement works including new paving and surfacing within the car park and external areas.

Councillors carefully considered the concerns of four objectors who raised concerns around the design of the development, conflict with existing residents’ parking, impact on amenity as a result of a playpark being established and the potential competition with local eateries through the introduction of a café. 

It was considered that both the building’s design and improved on-site car-parking were appropriate, as were the mitigations being put in place around the landscaped recreational area. While a café will be created, the volume of additional year-round visitors to the aquarium will result in far greater opportunities for other businesses to benefit in Macduff, Banff and the wider area.

The committee also heard that the Friends of Macduff Aquarium were fully in support of the development, saying it would lead to a “significant uplift” in the overall offer provided and that improved education facilities would allow for more extensive learning programmes and enhanced display, retailing and visitor services to ensure a more sustainable future for the aquarium.

Both VisitAberdeenshire and VisitScotland had indicated their support for the development of the aquarium, saying it would be a “significant new contribution to the North East tourism offer” and would not only provide the opportunity to transform the visitor experience within the 

aquarium itself, but the improved landscaping and links to coastal paths would also “enhance the wider destination offering, helping to encourage extended, year-round visits and spend in Macduff and the surrounding area”.

An unopposed motion to grant the planning application was raised by Cllr Mark Findlater, seconded by fellow Troup councillor Cllr Richard Menard.

The distinctive round aquarium building will be expanded to accommodate increased display and activity space and will feature a café-restaurant on the second floor boasting magnificent views over the Moray Firth and inside to the central kelp tank

Macduff Marine Aquarium – run by Live Life Aberdeenshire – has been operated by Aberdeenshire Council for more than 25 years. It regularly welcomes more than 50,000 visitors per year, contributing significantly to the local area’s economy and complimenting other existing tourist attractions along the popular North East 250 route. 

It highlights native marine life and the central tank design and local exhibits create a one-of-a-kind experience within the UK. Building on its success with investment in the attraction has long been part of the regeneration strategy for Macduff and the Levelling Up fund has presented a unique opportunity for the aquarium, Macduff and the area.

Afterwards, Banff and Buchan Area Committee chair Cllr Doreen Mair said: “I am delighted to see the development of the Macduff Marine Aquarium progressing. This project blends a striking design influenced by the aquarium’s coastal setting with improved facilities and amenities for visitors. I particularly welcome the additional space for education which will add greatly to the experience and will help educate people about the seas around us. This will be a tremendous asset for Macduff and the wider area and I very much look forward to seeing works commencing later this year.”

Vice-chair Cllr Richard Menard added: “This is a hugely exciting time both for the aquarium and Macduff itself and this development with its raft of enhancements will ensure this much-loved visitor attraction will realise its full potential all year-round. Tourism – be it from a local, regional or international level – is vitally important for the north coast and Aberdeenshire as a while and this project will safeguard the aquarium’s important role in the future.”

A total of 10 projects in Scotland were allocated more than £177 million from round two of the Levelling Up Fund which will enable projects to create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

The “Cultural Tides: North Sea Connections in Aberdeenshire” project will focus on the renovation and extension of Macduff Marine Aquarium and the creation of a Museum of Aberdeenshire and new Peterhead Library centred around the vacant Arbuthnot House property. 

Following a visit to the aquarium last year, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “UK Government money for Macduff Marine Aquarium will help expand the site and allow more families and visitors to see the wonderful marine life. It was great to see how Levelling Up funding will help increase tourism, deliver jobs and provide better facilities for the whole community to enjoy.”


The new aquarium boasts a striking design inspired by the coastal location and Macduff’s rich shipbuilding heritage