The borough of Ards and North Down (AND) is situated on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland. One of 11 new super councils created under the 2015 Review of Public Administration, it combines the legacy council areas of North Down to the north with a predominantly urban concentration (80% of residents live in the northern 25% of the borough) and Ards with its strong rural network of villages and rich countryside. AND is bounded by the shores of Belfast Lough to the north and the Irish Sea to the east, whilst Strangford Lough with a reputed 365 islands, provides the coastline to the west of the area and creates the Ards Peninsula to the east. With a population of 157,000 it comprises a unique mix of urban and rural communities, and is blessed with around 115 miles of coastline.
The new Corporate Plan sets out the Council’s purpose to make the borough the best place to live, work, visit and invest. Its vision is of a place to be proud of which is more prosperous, vibrant, healthy, sustainable and where people enjoy an excellent quality of life.
Planning sits within the Directorate of Regeneration, Development and Planning which seeks to exploit the unique opportunity that the still relatively newly transferred planning powers can bring to improving the quality of life for residents of the borough.
The Council is currently working in conjunction with The Paul Hogarth Group to develop an Integrated Strategy, the first of its kind in NI. This will act as the strategic and operational blueprint for Tourism, Regeneration, Economic Development and Planning context to 2022. One of its main purposes will be to define and agree the priorities to grow the economy including tourism priorities, regeneration initiatives, both urban and rural, enterprise and business development solutions and the Council’s investment proposition within a planning context. The strategy will positively influence the creation and delivery of the new Local Area Plan required for the borough under the Planning Act (NI) 2011.
The Planning team has recently engaged positively in a PAD for an extremely long-awaited proposed £75m redevelopment of its Bangor Town Centre seafront area known as Queen’s Parade. The regeneration of this semi-derelict area of the town has been discussed for more than 20 years but has yet to come to fruition. A new consortium ‘Angelvale’ (named according to a popular legend that St Patrick once rested in Bangor and dreamt the valley was filled with angels) has been chosen by the Department for Communities and the Council to become the preferred developer for the site, subject to contract.
The mixed use proposal includes a wide range of facilities to balance indoor/outdoor, daytime/evening and social/commercial activity. It aims to attract a wide spectrum of additional visitors and spend per visit by primarily focusing on entertainment, leisure and hospitality. The proposals include a 4-star signature hotel with 80 beds that will overlook the waterfront and the enhanced pedestrian plaza. A ‘winter garden’ will connect the entertainment and commercial elements via a covered space that can be used to house pop up events, markets and exhibitions. A maritime centre and seafront hospitality area adjacent to the waterfront plaza will be used for events and concerts overlooking the marina.
The proposals also integrate social investment in health, education and affordable homes and while maintaining a strong main street retail frontage will also aim to grow high quality niche retail to attract some exclusive offerings to the Northern Ireland marketplace.