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Plan to turn derelict Co Down factory into 44 new homes

By Rachel Martin

Fresh plans have been put forward to transform a former factory in Co Down into a new 44-home development. The former Irish Tapestry Building on South Street, Newtownards, has lain derelict for several years.

In September a wall attached to the building collapsed in high winds after becoming unstable.

Beforehand police sealed off the area in the interests of public safety, fearing a collapse.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Infrastructure said at the time the remainder of the structure was unsafe.

The building was not listed, but at one point had been given a false facade to improve the appearance of the area.

The latest proposals for its redevelopment include building three apartments and opening up access to the town's historic Bawn Wall, with the half-acre site's southern boundary overlooking a canal.

The proposals also state that the Bawn Wall will be "retained and reconditioned".

The planning application was first submitted in 2014, then re-submitted earlier this month after amendments were made.

The initial application was lodged by Castlebawn Ltd - a company that promised to bring a 75-acre £270m retail development to the town centre in a joint venture with Eastwood Property and R&A Group.

The project was meant to include a shopping centre, business park, hotel and care home, but Castlebawn went into administration almost two years ago.

However, the first phase of the proposal was completed, with Tesco, Home Bargains and Matalan among the stores now occupying the site.

Further work was planned to link the retail park with Newtownards town centre, but KPMG was appointed as administrators to Castlebawn, with EY taking over in April this year.

The shopping centre element of the development received planning permission, but that was quashed last year following a judicial review.

That decision is now being reconsidered, and fresh applications may be made.

The administrator's latest report, released in August, stated that Castlebawn owed more than £16m to Promontoria Eagle Limited (PEL), a Dublin-registered company that was used to buy the Project Eagle portfolio in June 2014. PEL is a subsidiary of Cerberus Capital Management.

Administrators said there would not be sufficient funds to pay the full amount, and added that a further £7.2m was owed to other creditors. Land and buildings owned by the firm were estimated to be worth £5m.

The new proposals came after the council put plans for a separate multimillion-pound retail development in the town on the backburner until February.

Designs for the scheme, which is planned to include a 100-bedroom hotel and 70-bed nursing home, were filed by Marm Developments.

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