13,500 new homes planned in regional development strategy

13,500 new homes planned in regional development strategy

THE recently unveiled local development plan has revealed there is potential to build just over 13,500 homes on 1,550 acres of zoned housing land across the district.

A vision of the area’s future development over the next 12 years was published last week

by Newry, Mourne and Down Council, with the so-called preferred options consultation paper highlighting future locations for a range of development.

The district’s population is expected to increase by 20% to almost 195,000 people by 2030, with the document publishing Regional Development Strategy (RDS) statistics in relation to potential new housing development.

Published in 2016, the government strategy indicates there are 321 acres of available land in Downpatrick capable of accommodating 2,245 new homes and 142 acres in Ballynahinch which could accommodate 1,283 homes.

There are 60 acres available in Newcastle, capable of accommodating 643 new dwellings, while

in Saintfield, the strategy says there are 20 acres of land where 172 new homes could be built.

The figures for Killyleagh are 34 and 292 respectively, while in Castlewellan, 14 acres of land are available for 120 new homes. 

The combined total of available housing land in villages and small hamlets across the council area is estimated at 474 acres which could potentially accommodate 3,717 new homes.

However, all future housing growth in towns and villages across the district will be determined through the local development plan process.

Significantly, the local authority’s consultation document suggests that Saintfield, Killyleagh and Castlewellan — which are currently classed as villages — should be formally designated small towns given their populations are 3,406, 2,928 and 2,792 respectively. It is also proposed to reclassify Shrigley and Spa from villages to small settlements.

The public is being asked to digest the content of the consultation document, with council officials

insisting that at this stage in the local development plan process, “it is not appropriate to set out the precise housing allocation for each town and village.”

They say the allocation of each area will be set out in the draft plan strategy, taking account of the size of settlement, availability of services and facilities and environmental capacity. In addition, 

council officials say it is appropriate to consider how housing should be distributed across the district.

The options paper represents the local authority’s formal commencement of work on preparing what is essentially a new area plan, with the publication designed to stimulate debate and encourage feedback on key issues of strategic significance which are likely to influence the plan’s direction.

Downpatrick and Newry are identified as main hubs, with the council keen to protect the role of towns and villages and support the regeneration of disadvantaged and deprived areas, alongside facilitating the development of new community facilities.

A Newry, Mourne and Down Council spokesman said in addressing distribution of housing land, the organisation’s preferred option is considered to represent a “balanced and sustainable

approach” based on current population distribution, whereby each settlement is allocated a fair share of new housing allocation and the need to meet the RDS target of 60% for all new housing to be allocated in brownfield sites of settlements greater than 5,000.

“In Newry, Mourne and Down, this includes the city of Newry, the main town of Downpatrick and the smaller towns of Kilkeel, Warrenpoint, Ballynahinch and Newcastle,” the spokesman said.

“The preferred option will focus development within settlements over 5,000, while recognising that there is a need to sustain villages and countryside. It strikes a balance between the need to promote the development of our city and towns in line with the RDS, whilst recognising

the need to support our rural communities.”

The spokesman added: “The preferred options paper identifies key planning issues that are likely to influence the shape of future development across the district. The document discusses options to address these, with the main purpose of the paper — which is the first public consultation document in the local development plan preparation process — to stimulate debate and encourage feedback to inform the plan’s development.”

The preferred options paper, together with all associated documents, can be viewed and downloaded from the council’s website www.newrymournedown.org and can also be viewed at its Downshire Civic Centre offices in Downpatrick.

The consultation period runs until 5pm on August 24 and all responses must be in writing and submitted by email to ldp@nmandd.org. Responses can also be submitted by post and forwarded to LDP, Preferred Options Paper, Development Plan Team, Council Offices, Downshire Civic Centre, Downshire Estate, Ardglass Rd, Downpatrick BT30 6GQ.