Published Monday, 21 October 2013
The project to redevelop the former Crepe Weavers factory in Newtownards, Co Down could create up to 400 jobs.
The site, which lies on 10.3 hectares of land, is to be regenerated to house a variety of businesses, community services and residential accommodation.
The proposal was submitted by Marm Developments.
It wants to transform the area into industrial, leisure and business units; two nursing homes; and a 100-bed hotel.
A neighbourhood centre with a creche/nursery, retail units, a health centre and a bank; several hot food outlets; a petrol filling station and 96 residential units will also be contained on the site.
Textile production at the factory concluded in 2005, with subsequent other industrial uses ending in 2010.
Minister Mark H Durkan, who was required to personally approve or reject the plans due to its large scale, said the outline approval would provide "a tremendous economic and social boost for the area."
This 10-hectare site has been derelict for some time and its redevelopment will provide a much-needed employment boost for the town, while providing valuable community and tourism facilities.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan
The SDLP minister said that a significant part of the site will be reserved for industrial purposes and the mixed-use components will also generate much-needed employment.
"I have sought to ensure that the non-industrial units cannot proceed on their own by including a planning condition to build a number of industrial units at the outset," he added.
"The development has the potential to accommodate as many jobs as the factory once supported at its peak and represents the best opportunity to improve the appearance and vibrancy of the site at its gateway location on the southern edge of the town.
"The local shopping and community facilities will be used by residents within the site and beyond and will also attract visitors and benefit from passing trade."
In a statement issued by Marm Developments, the company said it was pleased by the positive decision.
"This development, together with other recent developments in the area, will contribute positively to the regeneration of the southern approach to Newtownards and will have a positive knock on effect for the local community and current businesses," it said.
"The Directors have worked hard to secure a positive future for a site on which they have provided employment since the 1950s. They are delighted that this approval will provide the stimulus to deliver new employment and community facilities well into the future."
Simon Hamilton, DUP MLA for Strangford, has warmly welcomed the granting of planning approval.
"This is an extremely welcome and timely boost for the economy of Newtownards," he said.
"I and colleagues have been lobbying for planning approval for this development for some time including meeting with senior planners in Belfast to press the case.
"This site on the Comber Road was once a vibrant industrial hub but the days of the traditional textile industry in this part of the world are long over.
"I am glad that on what was once an important economic location in Ards, new economic life can be created," he added.
© UTV News