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NEW plans for a massive housing development in the heart of Newtownards have been unveiled.

The scheme will see 95 homes built on waste ground behind Court Street – which was once earmarked for redevelopment as a massive shopping centre.

It’s a reduction on original plans for the housing development, which two years ago was passed by planners at 108 homes.

The project is the brainchild of a County Londonderry property developer and is set to bring a large site that has lain empty for many years back into use.

It will also repair and retain a historic wall that dates back to the 17th century, when the area was part of a house and garden estate called Castlebawn.

The Castlebawn name has survived into modern usage for that part of Ards, and around 20 years ago the site was supposed to be redeveloped as part of a sprawling complex that was to include a shopping centre, car showrooms and retail and business units.

That scheme stalled in the wake of 2008’s property crash and subsequent recession, and the eventual Castlebawn shopping development built years later was much smaller, leaving the land behind Court Street untouched.

Two years ago, planners agreed that housing is now the best use for the site, with councillors excited by the possibility of spurring more people to live in the centre of Newtownards.

Back then, local politicians felt that a large housing development on the vacant land could help regenerate a part of the town that is increasingly derelict and ‘needs life brought into it’.

In what is an increasingly rare step, NI Water have already okayed the 95-homes plan.

The water firm has been blocking the expansion of suburban developments on the town’s outskirts, stating that its sewerage network can’t cope with large numbers of new homes.

But it says that the centre of Ards can take the extra housing, mainly as there’s a pre-existing sewer within 20 metres of the proposed development.

The project is still at a very early stage, and planners won’t make a decision on whether or not to approve the 95 homes until next year at the earliest.

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