Green light expected for Holywood retail and restaurant plan
A major new retail development in Holywood town centre looks set to be given the go-ahead.
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Planning officials in the north Down town have signalled their approval for a developer to demolish a pub and toilet block to make way for new shops, cafes, restaurants and offices.
The proposal, which is expected to be adopted by Ards and North Down Borough Council's planning committee on Tuesday, will see a new mixed-use development built on a site in Hibernia Street.
The site is currently home to the Stoker's Halt bar and restaurant.
It also includes a wasteland area and a car park owned by the Department for Infrastructure.
The company behind the plan is Robinson Family Ltd, which recently completed a major new apartment development next to the site.
Company director and well-known architect Simon Robinson said the £5m retail project represented the continuing development of what his company calls 'The Front' in Holywood.
He added the firm had been buoyed by the success of 18 new apartments built next door, fronting onto Marine Parade, the busy Holywood bypass road that links Belfast with Bangor.
Completed in May last year, the residential complex is close to full capacity.
Mr Robinson said rather than representing a completely new development, the retail dimension was an extension of what he said had been his firm's regeneration of the immediate area.
Outline planning approval for the retail aspect was granted to the developer in 2015.
Initially envisioned as a retail park-style scheme with an anchor supermarket, he said that the changing climate in retail had resulted in a rethink of the original plans.
The current version of The Front includes a series of smaller ground-floor retail and hospitality units, with office space on the second floor.
It will also result in the construction of a new toilet block and larger car park and will have a public realm dimension that could allow cafes and restaurants to serve outdoors.
"The apartments are all but fully sold out, with 50% of them sold off-plan. That element was very successful," stressed Mr Robinson.
"The scheme also involves the regeneration and reorganising of public space.
"The council has already carried out a fair bit of public realm works in and around Holywood.
"This really plugs into that and into the main shopping street in Holywood."
It is understood that a number of retailers have already expressed interest in the new units.
The architect, a director at RPP Architects, said there had also been considerable interest in the new office space.
He said with planning approval in place, work on development should proceed straight away.