Ards Football Club's hopes of returning to the town in a new stadium have been given a major boost.
Ards Borough Council has ratified a plan to allow the club to rent the Floodgates land on the Portaferry Road
And, after seeing a number of planned returns fail to come to fruition since they left Castlereagh Park almost 12 years ago, Ards chairman Brian Adams now wants to ensure that nothing prevents the team from returning to play in Newtownards in the near future.
On Wednesday night the council voted in favour of a report that recommended that the disused Floodgates land – which is very close to the old Castlereagh Park – was handed over to Ards FC for redevelopment.
The Premiership new boys will be allowed to rent the 14 acres site from the council at a peppercorn rate.
"This is fantastic news for Ards Football Club. We are delighted and we would like to thank all the councillors who have supported us over the past few years," said Adams.
"For a long time we have dreamed of bringing senior football back to Newtownards and we hope this is the start of our plans coming to fruition.
"It's not just great news for Ards FC, it's also great news for intermediate football, junior football and schools football, who will all be able to avail of the facilities. This is a project for everybody in the borough to get behind.
"We are under no illusions. The hard work starts now."
Ards Borough Council had planned to build a community stadium, with the club as anchor tenants, at Londonderry Park – which is opposite their former ground – but the plan collapsed last August after objections from land owner Lady Rose Lauritzen.
This new plan puts the emphasis on Ards, who will have to raise the funds to build the new stadium themselves.
The club are hoping to secure funding and investment to make their dreams a reality, with a 3G pitch as one of the plans for the stadium.
Ards supporter and local councillor Angus Carson said: "I'm delighted to read the report backing Ards FC's move back to Newtownards."
Fellow councillor Jimmy Meenagh said: "I totally support the council giving Ards the lease for the Floodgates, providing the contract is in order.
"Ards have worked very hard in recent years. They've paid off their debts and got the club back into the Premiership.
"The results aren't great at the minute but hopefully this news will give everybody a lift."