Planning Portal

Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Down District: Newcastle Commerce

Newcastle town centre is linear in form, stretching along Main Street to either side of the Shimna Bridge. It suffers from a lack of cohesion comprising two separate retail areas interspersed largely by housing areas, one of which is centred to the north of Main Street and the other adjacent to Shimna Bridge.
The main commercial uses reflect its primary function as a tourist resort with a high percentage of hot food takeaways, amusement arcades, gift shops, public houses and a variety of tourist accommodation. Amusement Arcades are concentrated to the south of the Shimna Bridge. The town centre is characterised by houses interspersed with small offices and shops, many of which are in seasonal use.
In addition to a number of small independent shops, there is a food retail outlet at Railway Street within the town centre and a local edge of town centre retail unit on the Castlewellan Road.
All of Newcastle’s local and through traffic use the town centre streets and may give rise to congestion particularly at peak tourist times. The environment of the main streets therefore suffers and the attraction of the shopping area is diminished. There are no pedestrianised areas in the town apart from a coastal walkway. The Department for Regional Development, Roads Service will examine new traffic management and environmental measures, in conjunction with Down District Council and in consultation with all interested parties.
The bus station, to the north of the town centre at Railway Street, provides a local and express public bus service. There are three car parks in the town centre which are convenient to the shops and one car park further south.
Prevailing regional planning policy for town centres and primary retail cores is currently contained within Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS 5): Retailing and Town Centres.
Proposal NE 22 Town Centre
A Town Centre is designated for Newcastle as indicated on Map Nos. 3/004a, Newcastle Settlement Map and 3/004d, Newcastle Town Centre Map.
Development proposals within the Town Centre will be assessed in the context of all prevailing regional planning policy and relevant policies in the Plan.
The Town Centre includes Main Street, Central Promenade, Castle Place, Donard Street and part of Railway Street, Donard Place, Savoy Lane, St Mary’s Lane, Downs Road, Beach Avenue, Causeway Road, Post Office Lane, Park Lane, Bryansford Avenue, Bryansford Road, Park Avenue and Valentia Place.
A large number of upper floors of buildings in the Town Centre, particularly Main Street, are vacant or underused as storage for ground floor shops.
There are opportunities to introduce residential use into existing commercial properties through conversion of such upper storeys. Proposals for conversion will be judged on their merits taking into account the nature of the development and the circumstances of each particular case but future alterations should be sympathetic to character of the existing building. The upper storeys of many of Newcastle’s town centre buildings retain many of their attractive original architectural features and should be retained where practicably possible.
It is accepted that in some situations little or no car parking can be provided but it may still be desirable to permit conversion to residential use in order to increase stock in the Town Centre, and bring disused or underused accommodation into productive use.
Proposal NE 23 Primary Retail Core
A Primary Retail Core is designated within Newcastle Town Centre as indicated on Map No. 3/004d, Newcastle Town Centre Map.
Newcastle’s retail area is dispersed along Main Street into two pockets of independent shops and commercial uses.
A Primary Retail Core is drawn to consolidate those areas considered to be the core areas of retail activity. It is important to facilitate a strong retail presence in order to provide a focus for retail activity in Main Street. This would help to create a more vibrant town centre attractive to shopper and visitor alike. These areas are attractive and accessible for retail  development.
Policy NE 24 Amusement Arcades
Amusement Arcades will only be permitted to the south of the Shimna River in that area identified on Map No. 3/004d, Newcastle Town Centre Map.
Amusement Arcades are a traditional recreational and commercial use often found in established seaside resorts, such as Newcastle. They often appear as a dominant use in the local streetscape and can interrupt the cohesion of the retail frontage particularly if dispersed along the street frontage.
Amusements Arcades in Newcastle are focused on one major area to the south of the Shimna Bridge. In this way their impact on the main shopping frontage in Newcastle has been minimised. It is appropriate to allow for the increase of this type of use but in a controlled manner in order to protect the retail function of the Town Centre.
Applications for additional Arcades or for the expansion of existing Arcades will also be considered in the context of all prevailing planning policies.
Proposal NE 25 Town Centre Housing
The following areas of town centre housing are designated in accordance with Policy HOU 3 in Volume 1 of the Plan and as indicated on Map No. 3/004d, Newcastle Town Centre Map. They include parts of:
  • Valentia Place; and
  • Donard Place
A number of terraces in Valentia Place are currently occupied while others are in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment and residential use would secure their refurbishment and reuse. They are accessible to Main Street via a series of pedestrian linkages.
These housing areas provide an opportunity for those wishing to live close to Main Street and the Seafront, particularly the elderly and young single people and for those without cars.
Planning policy will resist the spread of commercial uses into these housing areas on the periphery of the Town Centre which have a useful longer term life.
Proposal NE 26 Development Opportunity Sites
Development Opportunity Sites are designated in accordance with Policy SETT 3 in Volume 1 of the Plan within Newcastle Town Centre as indicated on Map No. 3/004d, Newcastle Town Centre Map.
Main Street runs almost parallel to the Seafront separating the Promenade from the main residential area adjacent to the Town Centre. Linkages between the Promenade and residential areas through the Town Centre are provided by a series of pedestrian accesses running from Valentia Place to the Seafront.
These perform a valuable role within the Town Centre and provide the opportunity for enhanced access to the Seafront as part of an attractive network of pedestrian walkways to include the proposed river corridors and linking the outer areas of the town to the seafront.
The opportunity exists to facilitate pedestrian movement and to create interest within the Town Centre for the shopper and visitor alike by the enhancement of these linkages through environmental improvements and the provision, for example of covered archways. Where feasible, new development should provide traditional shop fronts to replace existing dead frontages. Appropriate uses would include retail, office, civic with housing on the upper floors, in accordance with prevailing planning policy.
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