Ilfracombe Aquarium plan for ‘rocket house’ is approved

Joseph Bulmer

Planners agree to the attraction to using the building next door for a variety of uses from cafe to live aquarium.

THE old “rocket house” on Ilfracombe Pier is set to become an indoor caf� following a successful planning application.

Ilfracombe Aquarium owner Lawrence Raybone acquired the lease for the former fisherman’s store some 18 months ago and applied for a change of use to help draw visitors to the aquarium.

The planning application stated several possible uses, including a gallery, retail outlet, games space or display area for extra aquarium exhibits.

Following North Devon Council’s approval of the application, Mr Raybone told the Gazette the immediate intention was to finish restoration of the building and then initially to use it as an indoor caf� space.

“It’s a good project because it’s a nice old building with bags of potential and history,” he said.

“At the moment we can offer outside covered space, but obviously if we intend to remain open for more of the year we need to be able to offer and indoor space to visitors.”

He said they also hoped to make use of it as a “multi functional space” to accommodate school groups and for use during events such as rock pool rambles and the annual Sea Ilfracombe Festival. Other aspects of use could include as a retail outlet, selling local artwork and with a live aquarium inside.

In time, Mr Raybone said it was hoped to combine the Rocket House – so called because it is thought lifeboat warning rockets were once stored there – with the main aquarium building.

In the long term he said their vision was to undergo a complete redesign to enable the smaller building to become an additional exhibition space for aquatic creatures and increase the range the attraction had to offer.

In the meantime, staff are awaiting anxiously to see if they will hear the patter of tiny fins - one of the small eyed or “painted” rays at the aquarium has laid her first eggs and Lawrence and his team are waiting to see if they will hatch.