Belfast Telegraph

Unveiled: The new town of Newtownards

By Linda Stewart

Plans for a major facelift for Newtownards which would transform the town centre have been unveiled.

The masterplan would be focused on the centre of the Co Down market town from Conway Square outwards, revamping the main shopping streets that radiate from the civic square.

Key proposals include creating a new purpose-built development along High Street and Court Street to provide modern shop units for local independent retailers; redesigning Conway Square to create a new focal point that could be used for festivals as well as the local market; and public realm investment in the main shopping areas of High Street/Mill Street and Regent Street/Frances Street as well as a second retail area along South Street.

The idea behind the plan is to provide strategic guidance for the regeneration of Newtownards town centre, while protecting the existing physical, social and economic capital of the town.

The Department for Social Development has earmarked £2.5m for the public realm work which involves upgrading pavements and streets.

The first half million could come later this year and the remainder over the next two to three years — but this depends on whether the money is secured from the Executive in the September monitoring round.

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood said: “Newtownards is a vibrant town and has a first-rate reputation for providing high quality independent retailing for local people and visitors.

“This masterplan seeks to ensure that the viability and vitality of the town centre shopping environment is sustained and enhanced in a planned way. It will ensure that Newtownards remains an accessible, attractive town centre that is a good place for people to spend time.

“The vision for the town is that Newtownards continues to be a vibrant and distinctive market town that people will choose to visit. This vision will be achieved if all those with an interest in Newtownards work together to implement the action plan contained in the report.”

Mayor of Ards, David Smyth, said: “The significance of this masterplan cannot be underestimated — it will facilitate the regeneration work within the town centre, maximising development opportunities and creating a more vibrant town centre.

“We look forward now to moving the proposals forward in conjunction with our local businesses and development partners.”

Richard Heasley, of Scott Wilson’s Consultants who drew up the plan, said: “Newtownards' high quality townscape, public space at Conway square and strong independent retailing ensured that the masterplan could be built on some very strong foundations which are already in place.

“The plan has been developed to enhance the town's strengths, building on the assets which make Newtownards such a successful and marketable town now and into the future.”

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