Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Down District: Newcastle
Newcastle is located 19 kilometres from Downpatrick and 51 kilometres from Belfast. The settlement originated at a bridging point at the mouth of the Shimna River, once the site of the Magennis Castle, which was demolished in 1831 to make way for a hotel and is now the Annesley Buildings.
Its early growth was related to the granite and fishing industries centred on the Harbour and foreshore at the southern end of the town in an area known as The Ballagh. Its development as a major holiday resort followed with the extension of the railway to the town in 1869. This period saw the construction of the late 19th Century Victorian stuccoed domestic terraces now concentrated on the inland side of Main Street.
Today Newcastle is a service centre for the surrounding rural hinterland, a commuter settlement and a holiday and retirement resort. It remains one of the main centres for tourism in Northern Ireland due primarily to the beauty of it’s natural setting and provides a range of tourist accommodation, in particular caravan parks. Local service and recreation facilities include churches, schools, a library, golf courses, Gaelic football and soccer pitches, outdoor swimming pools and playing fields. The service sector is the main source of employment, much of which is associated with the tourist industry and general professional services.
The town and its setting contain a number of listed buildings, archaeological monuments and sites of nature conservation interest. It retains many examples of late 19th Century architecture, associated with its development as a resort, particularly in Main Street and on South Promenade and King Street. The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment describes the town’s dramatic mountain setting and the strong contrasts between the mountains, the flat dune landscape at the shore and the series of river valleys which radiate inland from the town. It refers to areas of locally distinctive landscape within the town, including the Shimna valley, Tipperary Wood and Donard Park and the river corridors associated with the Glen, the Tullybrannigan and the Burren rivers.
Flooding is a constraint to development adjacent to some of the main rivers. Rivers Agency has recently completed the Burren River flood alleviation scheme which will provide the opportunity to release land for development within the Plan period.
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy, (RDS), identifies Newcastle as a local hub below the level of Downpatrick, the main town in Down District. The RDS aims to build up and reinforce a network of main and local hubs strategically located on the Regional Strategic Transport Network which have the capacity to accommodate and provide a wide range of complementary services.
In the context of the RDS, Newcastle’s capacity for additional development is determined by its location, both within the District and in relation to the strategic road network, the quality of its environmental setting and the scale of its local service role.