Belfast Telegraph

Green light for major Ards plan

By Helen McDowell

The revival of a derelict site near Newtownards town centre could yield up to 400 jobs.

In a major announcement, outline planning permission has been granted for a former textile factory off Comber Road to be transformed into a range of facilities, including a 100-bed hotel and 96 housing units.

The development plans also include: industrial, leisure and business units; two nursing homes; a neighbourhood centre to include a crèche/nursery; retail units; a health centre and a bank; several hot food outlets and a petrol filling station.

Announcing the outline planning permission, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said the redevelopment could provide up to 400 jobs and will occupy 10.3 hectares at the now derelict Crepe Weavers Factory site.

Mr Durkan said: "This will be a tremendous economic and social boost for the area. I have sought to ensure that the non-industrial units cannot proceed on their own by including a planning condition to build a number of industrial units at the outset."

He continued: "The local shopping and community facilities will be used by residents within the site and beyond and will also attract visitors and benefit from passing trade."

The planning application was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on April 2, 2010, by Marm Developments.

The textile factory closed in 2005 and subsequent industrial uses ceased in 2010.

The department received seven letters of objection, two letters of representation and five letters of support in relation to the application.

MP for the area, Jim Shannon (left) welcomed the news, saying it would also create 150 construction jobs. He said he had been involved in talks about the scheme for up to five years.

Asked if there was a realistic chance of the development proceeding in the current economic climate, he said he believed the demand for industrial use was there: "I am aware of some people who have relocated from Ards to outside the borough because they couldn't find industrial units of the size to suit their expanding business."

Alliance Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy welcomed the news, but added: "I should add a word of concern over the amount of time this announcement has taken. This development has been earmarked for many years but due to a flawed planning process these vital services have been denied to local people until now."

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