£50m shopping development approved
A £50 million development in Newtownards will restore buildings dating back to the 19th century while helping the local economy, officials have said.
The 20,000 sq metre Castlebawn shopping space will create retail opportunities while converting a listed terrace in Court Street into a mall, planning minister Alex Attwood said.
"I have been attracted by those elements of the scheme which will see the converting and restoring of an existing 19th-century listed building in Court Street, with the access this affords to the town centre itself," Mr Attwood said.
"I am fully aware of the views of retailers. Taken together, the regeneration, restoration and retail gains of the application have led me to conclude in favour of and approve the application."
The application was for planning permission for a new retail development, car parking, landscaping and the retention and restoration of several listed buildings within the town centre.
The Department of the Environment received 23 objections.
Mr Attwood explained his decision to grant approval.
"This was a judgment that I came to after much thought. It is the decision that, overall, is the better way to proceed. The fact that it is an edge of town/in town development is one that can also work to protect town centre retail," he said.
"As environment minister I not only want to protect the environment, but also do everything I can to create jobs and develop the economy. This scheme will help with construction jobs and I hope create opportunities in the retail sector."