Published Thursday, 13 September 2012
The announcement was made on Thursday. (© Getty)
It will see two storeys added to the centre - an extra 22,263 square metres of floor space -
and a new multi-storey car park built within it.
The work is expected to provide 500 construction jobs and 1,000 jobs post-construction.
Mr Attwood said the extension will breathe new life into one of the oldest shopping centres in Northern Ireland, providing certainty for its future.
"This will be an economic boost for Newtownards, creating many more jobs and many more shoppers to the town as well as providing much needed employment in the construction industry," the SDLP minister explained.
"Planning can be a real stimulus to the economy when proper environmental conditions have been met, a point I made very clearly at the Executive economic summit this morning."
Much of the old Ards Centre will be demolished and re-configured.
Four restaurants and five kiosks with a multi-storey car park and associated service areas, access and landscaping are to be added.
"In taking this decision I am bringing to a conclusion a long and difficult process which has lasted nearly eight years," continued Mr Attwood.
"As with all the major retail applications currently under assessment by my Department, both in Ards and in other areas in the North, I intend to clear the backlog and make decisions swiftly, but only after giving careful consideration to the individual merits of each case."