Published Monday, 22 October 2012
The scheme will see listed terrace buildings incorporated into a retail area. (© UTV)
The plans will see a 20,000 square metre development that will straddle the Ards Town Centre boundary, creating retail opportunities and converting a listed terrace in Court Street into a shopping mall.
The scheme will also incorporate, restore and enhance public access to the historic "bawn wall".
The department received 23 objections to the plans but Mr Attwood said the regeneration and restoration as well as retail gains of the scheme had convinced him that it should go forward.
"Given the existing major retail offering in Newtownards - including a Tesco and a recent approval to extend the Ards Shopping Centre - I wanted to be vigilant on how this application might impact on a town that has a great trading reputation, including in this time of double dip recession," he said.
"This was a judgement that I came to after much thought. It is the decision that, overall, is the better way to proceed. The fact that it is an edge of town/in town development is one that can also work to protect town centre retail.
"As Environment Minister I not only want to protect the environment, but also do everything I can to create jobs and develop the economy. This scheme will help with construction jobs and I hope create opportunities in the retail sector."
Mr Attwood said his department is working to clear approximately 40 remaining major planning applications waiting to be processed.