Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Ards Borough: Comber
Comber, the second largest town in Ards Borough, is located approximately 7 kilometres from Newtownards and 15 kilometres from Belfast.
Records indicate the presence of a Cistercian Monastery at Comber at the turn of the 12th and 13th Centuries. By the early 18th century, the historic core of the town had been established with the old Cistercian burial ground adapted and laid out as the central square. Rebuilding of properties proceeded from about 1731 onwards creating The Square and High Street much as they appear today.
The village grew with the advent of the railway from 1850 and by the 1860s the basis for Mill Village, an industrial village south-west of, and linked to The Square by High Street, had been established. Industrialisation raised Comber’s position from a village to an important town in the 19th century, based around Killinchy Street/ Mill Street and around Railway Street/ Brownlow Street.
Today, Comber is a localised service centre with a number of businesses providing convenience, durable and retail services. It also acts as an educational, religious, and social centre providing health care and recreational facilities and a growing commuter settlement with trunk road connections to Newtownards and Belfast.
Comber’s growth has largely been influenced by its undulating topography, the Enler River and the railway embankment. The surrounding topography, tree groups and hedgerows provide good visual boundaries to the current urban form and contribute positively to its overall setting and character.
There are a number of designated sites of nature conservation importance, which affect the Comber River estuary and eastern fringes of the town. Listed buildings within Comber include the First and Second Comber Presbyterian Churches, St. Mary’s Parish Church, the former Comber Distillery buildings on Killinchy Street, the central monument and houses on the north side of The Square which are representative of the traditional architecture of the town and have retained much of their original character.
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) identifies Comber as a local hub below the level of Newtownards the main town in Ards Borough. Local Hubs are towns strategically located on the Regional Strategic Transport Network, which have the capacity to accommodate and provide a wide range of complementary services.
The RDS indicates that Comber is one of seven small towns in the Belfast Metropolitan Area hinterland which, by reason of location in relation to Regional Strategic Transportation Network and their existing facilities and infrastructure, are to accommodate significant planned expansion to meet housing need related to the Belfast Metropolitan Area. The housing proposed in Comber is allocated from the housing growth indicator for Ards Borough in conformity with specific guidelines outlined in the RDS.
Planned expansion is to comprise housing and economic development, the scale nature and phasing of which is to be determined through the development plan process, subject to the search sequencing procedure required by the RDS, and to take account of the following sustainability objectives:
- produce a sustainable pattern of development;
- maintain a complementary and balanced relationship with the main towns;
- prevent an increase in longer distance car trips and especially to the BMA from small towns which are unlikely to be able to offer as much local employment for their residents;
- protect the identity, character and setting of the towns, and to integrate any expansion with the topographical setting; and
- avoid a mismatch with the provision of both “hard” and “soft” infrastructure.