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Ards and Down Area Plan 2015

The Ards and Down Area Plan 2015 is a development plan prepared under the provisions of Part III of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 by the Planning Service, an Agency within the Department of the Environment.
Notice was given to Ards Borough Council on 12th January 1999 and to Down District Council on 27th January 1999 that the Department intended to prepare a new development plan to cover the two council areas for the period 2000 to 2015. A Notice of Intention to prepare the Plan was published in the local and regional press in the week beginning 15th March 1999 and comments were invited from the public and interested parties in respect of the issues to be addressed in the Plan. Consultations were also carried out with both Councils, community groups, Government Departments and Agencies, statutory undertakers and other appropriate bodies. All representations received were taken into account in preparing the Issues Paper and the Draft Plan.
In April 2000 the Department informed Ards Borough and Down District Councils that the Plan would be prepared under new procedures which replaced the publication of Preliminary Proposals with the publication of an Issues Paper.
The purpose of the Issues Paper was to offer the opportunity for wider and more effective public participation in the preparation of the Draft Plan by focusing thought on strategic matters in the early stages of the preparation process, in preference to the traditional approach of publishing for comment Preliminary Proposals of a site specific nature. The aim of the Issues Paper was to promote debate and feedback on matters which would shape the preparation of the Draft Plan.
Further discussions with Ards Borough and Down District Councils took place in October 2000 on the content of the Issues Paper then being prepared. The Department also appointed Community Technical Aid, (CTA), to undertake an extensive community and public consultation exercise on the Issues Paper. The first stage of CTA’ s work preceded publication of the Issues Paper. That work involved identification of community, voluntary and environmental groups throughout the Plan area likely to have an interest in the preparation of the Area Plan. Contact was made by CTA with 460 groups who were informed of the process and encouraged to participate. CTA held initial briefings with key umbrella groups in the area which were given the opportunity to express their views on issues of importance to the Plan. CTA then reported the results of this first stage exercise to the Department on 7 December 2000.
The Department published the Ards and Down Area Plan 2015 Issues Paper on 15th December 2000. A public notice was placed in the regional and local newspapers during the week beginning 11th December 2000. Copies of the Paper were made available free of charge from the Divisional Planning Office, from the offices of Ards Borough and Down District Council and from local libraries.
The Issues Paper and the Press Notice advised that all views expressed in writing by 30th March 2001, including views conveyed through the report of CTA, representations received during the initial stages of the Plan review and the representations of statutory consultees, including Ards Borough and Down District Council, would be considered in the preparation of the policies and proposals to be published in the Draft Plan.
In January 2001 CTA facilitated five public meetings in each of the two council areas. Planning staff were in attendance at each meeting to assist and to answer questions. Each of the meetings was advertised in advance in the local press, the Notices appearing during the weeks beginning 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd January 2001. A reminder of the closing date for responses to the Issues Paper was published in the local and regional newspapers in the week beginning 19th March 2001.
CTA reported to Planning Service on 31 March 2001 on the implementation of, and their conclusions on, the community consultation exercise which they had facilitated. CTA received responses from 50 community, voluntary and environmental groups and from over 700 people who had attended the public meetings. Their Report is included as part of the Technical Supplement on Public Participation.
During the published response period 568 representations were received by Planning Service of which approximately 40% either addressed issues raised in the published Issues Paper, or otherwise dealt with general rather than site specific issues. Some representations of general concern were received both before and after the advertised period for response to the Issues Paper. In preparing the Draft Plan consideration has been given to all representations received throughout that process.
The Department published the Ards and Down Area Plan 2015 Draft Plan on the 10th December 2002.  The statutory period for objection to the Draft Plan expired on 21 January 2003.  In view of the number and nature of the objections received within the statutory period, the Department requested the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) to hold a Public Inquiry into the relevant objections and to report to the Department on the Inquiry.  The Public Inquiry opened on Tuesday 3rd May 2005 in the Queen's Hall, West Street, Newtownards.  The Planning Appeals Commissioner formally closed the Public Inquiry on Wednesday 17th January 2007.  The PAC completed its report into the objections to the Draft Plan and submitted its report to the Department on 14th March 2008.  The recommendations contained in the PAC's report have been fully considered by the Department and revisions have been made to the Written Statement and maps as appropriate.  Full details of the Commission's recommendations are set out in the Ards and Down Areas Plan 2015 Adoption Statement and its Appendices.
The Department is now publishing the Ards and Down Area Plan 2015.  The Plan is comprised of three volumes: Volume 1:- Plan Strategy, Policy Framework and Countryside Proposals, Volume 2:- Ards Borough Proposals and Volume 3:- Down District Proposals.  These volumes should be read in conjunction with the accompanying maps.  The document incorporates the amendments outlined in the Adoption Statement and replaces all previous versions of the Ards and Down Area Plan 2015.  In the event of a contradiction between the Written Statement and a map, the provisions of the Written Statement will prevail.
In preparing and prior to the publication of the final Plan , the Department prepared a number of Technical Supplements containing technical information which has influenced the policies and proposals contained in the Plan.  The Technical Supplements do not form part of the statutory Plan.  These are:
  1. Technical Supplements which deal with housing and population, industry, commerce, education, social and community facilities, tourism, open space and recreation, public utilities , transportation and public participation.
  2. A Countryside Assessment Supplement which includes an appraisal of the landscape of the Plan area, an analysis of rural development pressure and an appraisal of each settlement in terms of its character, assets and constraints, conservation issues and settlement limits.
  3. Settlement Reports relating to each town, village and small settlement which detail the settlement's role and facilities, population, housing, urban capacity sites, land availability and the investigation of future housing lands.
  4. A Strategic Environmental Appraisal and Equality Impact Assessment Supplement comprising an assessment of the probable environmental and equality impacts of the policies and proposals contained within the PLan.
  5. An Appropriate Assessment (AA) Report containing details of the appropriate assessment carried out in respect of the Plan in line with the requirements of Article 6.3 and 6.4 of the Habitats Directive.
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