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Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Introduction: Plan Area

The Plan area consists of the administrative districts of Ards Borough and Down District.
It is approximately 1,024 square kilometres in extent with an estimated 2001 population of approximately 137,000.  Ards Borough is approximately 377 square kilometres in extent and in  2001 had a population estimated at 73,244 of which 27795 (38%) lived in Newtownards.
Comber and Donaghadee are the largest settlements outside Newtownards. Comber had a population of 8,952 in 2001 and Donaghadee 6,474.
Down District is 647 square kilometres in extent with a 2001 population estimated at 63,828, of which 10,320 (16%) lived in Downpatrick, the lowest proportion in any district in Northern Ireland resident in its main town. Ballynahinch and Newcastle are the largest settlements in the District outside Downpatrick. Ballynahinch had a 2001 population of 5,334 and Newcastle a population of 7,431. Downpatrick is some 32 kilometres and Ballynahinch 36 kilometres from Belfast.
Ards Borough abuts the Belfast Metropolitan Area to the north and west. Down District stretches southwards from Ards Borough to the Mourne Mountains south of Newcastle. The eastern edge of the Plan area is the Irish Sea coastline. From Donaghadee to Ballynahinch a line of towns and large villages lies close to the southern and eastern edges of the Belfast Metropolitan Area. The villages in the Plan area are, for the most part, situated along the sea coast and the shores of Strangford Lough, and smaller settlements are distributed throughout the open countryside.
The Plan area contains a rich diversity of terrain, landscapes, habitats and settlement. It stretches from Scrabo Hill and the many places of natural and historic interest around Strangford Lough, southward through St. Patrick’s Country and the Lecale Coast to the northern edge of the Mourne Mountains.  Coastal areas are an especially valuable resource for their landscape qualities, earthscience features and as wildlife habitats. Ards Borough and Down District share the shoreline of Strangford Lough, a shallow island - studded arm of the Irish Sea. The Lough stretches some 25 kilometres from a wide expanse of sand and mud flats between Comber and Newtownards at its northern extremity, through the swift tidal waters at the narrows between Portaferry and Strangford, and then southwards where it meets the open sea between Ballyquintin Point in Ards Borough and Killard Point in Down District.
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