Planning Portal

Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Policy Framework: Public Services and Utilities

The provision of public services and utilities within the Plan area is primarily the responsibility of a number of Government Departments and Agencies, Ards Borough Council, Down District Council and statutory bodies. However, the role of the private sector is becoming more important. The main services are water and sewerage, drainage, waste disposal, cemeteries, electricity, telecommunications and natural gas.

Regional Policy Context

The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) provides the strategic environmental context for the delivery of public services and utilities and contains the following strategic planning guidelines:
  • to undertake or where appropriate, facilitate a programme of infrastructure improvements essential to business needs (SPG-ECON 5);
  • to respond to the implications of climate change and promote more prudent and efficient use of energy and resources, and effective waste management (SPG-ENV 5); and
  • to create healthier living environments and to support healthy lifestyles (SPG-ENV 6).
Current policies on new infrastructure and the disposal or treatment of waste materials is contained within PPS 11 – Planning and Waste Management. Current policies on developments at risk from flooding or land instability are contained within PPS 15 – Planning and Flood Risk. Draft policies on renewable energy are contained within PPS 18 (Draft) Renewable Energy. PPS 21 (Draft) Sustainable Development in the Countryside contains policies relating to septic tanks, whilst A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland contains policies on overhead electric cables. Prevailing regional policy in relation to telecommunications is provided by PPS 10 - Telecommunications.

Water and Sewerage

The abstraction, treatment and supply of drinking water and conveyance and treatment of sewage are the responsibility of Northern Ireland Water (NIW). Future improvements to this infrastructure are also the responsibility of NIW.
Water supply within the Plan area is drawn from several sources and delivered through various local service reservoirs. The main source is currently the Silent Valley reservoir in the Mourne Mountains via a new Water Treatment Works at Drumaroad.
Lough Cowey near Portaferry supplies the lower Ards Peninsula but there are plans for future decommissioning with supplies from Mourne via a reinforced network. Similarly it would be proposed to decommission the existing borehole supplies in the Newtownards and Comber areas.
Castlewellan, Annsborough and Kilcoo areas are supplied from Fofannybanne Water Treatment Works which is supplied from the Spelga and Fofanny Reservoirs.
Throughout the Plan area, NIW has schemes programmed to upgrade the water and sewerage system, where required and to comply with EU Directives, to ensure water quality and meet increasing demand.
For the larger areas of population, drainage studies, involving computer modelling of the drainage system, are being carried out to ensure that sewerage will meet existing requirements, the requirements of development and the effluent discharge standards set by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and required by European Directives. In otherareas, growth will be accommodated by local improvements as required.
A major new Waste Water Works has been constructed in the Ards Borough to serve Bangor, Donaghadee and Millisle. The plant is designed to meet the effluent discharge standards into the Irish Sea set in the European Directive on Urban Waste Water Treatment. The existing Waste Water Treatment Works at Ballyrickard, serving Newtownards and Comber is being upgraded with an anticipated completion at Spring 2009.
A number of other Waste Water Treatment Works within the Plan area have been, or are, scheduled for upgrade or replacement to comply with the European Directives and to cater for existing and future development. Details of the current programme of upgrade to the sewerage infrastructure are provided in Appendix 9. This Table lists each Wastewater Treatment Works throughout the Plan area in three categories. Those listed within category 1 are deemed satisfactory and capable of accommodating all development within its catchment area that is proposed in the Plan throughout the plan period. Category 2 details ongoing and planned work within the existing funding period, (April 2007 to March 2010), where NIW has identified and is committed to capital improvements to ensure that discharge standards and the development needs of the plan area, as identified in the Plan, are met. Category 3 details those Works being considered for inclusion within the capital programme for the period April 2010 to March 2013. Their inclusion is dependent on a positive determination by the Financial Regulator following submission of the Capital Programme in June 2009. NIW’s Capital Programme for the period April 2010 to March 2013 and beyond has not yet been determined by the Financial Regulator. Public Services and Utilities
All land to be developed through the Plan will be subject to the availability of adequate sewerage infrastructure. Acceptable interim sewerage disposal measures will be required in the absence of such adequate sewerage infrastructure. NIW publishes a ‘Developer’s and House Builder’s Information Pack’ detailing all aspects of infrastructure provision including pre-development and capacity checks and it is recommended that developers should make early contact with NIW to discuss site specific issues including phasing and the provision of interim sewer and sewage disposal measures including developer contributions, where appropriate.


Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Rivers Agency is responsible for drainage and will be consulted in relation to applications for development, which involve:
  • land protected by sea embankments;
  • land susceptible to flooding;
  • a significant increase in surface water run off;
  • discharge of storm water to watercourses; or
  • drainage requirements with regard to designated watercourses.
In accordance with government policy, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is committed to the introduction of procedures for the recovery of developer contributions towards the costs of drainage infrastructure improvement work. Currently, drainage improvements necessary to permit development are subject to strict cost/benefit analysis and scheme prioritization and whilst drainage works necessary to facilitate development may be identified as viable, their implementation will be dependant on the availability of resources.
Major areas of flooding affecting the larger settlements within the Plan area lie to the north west and areas alongside the Enler River in Comber, to the west and south west of Downpatrick originating from the Quoile River and its tributaries, along the Ballynahinch River to the north west and south east of the town centre, along the Burren River to the west of Castlewellan Road in Newcastle and along Carrigs River to the north of the town.
Many existing urban drainage systems are damaging the environment and are therefore not sustainable in the long term. The government wishes to promote a move to Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). These provide a number of options for draining an area and fall into three broad groups that aim to:
  • reduce the quantity of runoff from the site (source control techniques);
  • slow the velocity of runoff to allow settlement filtering and infiltration (permanent conveyance systems); and,
  • provide passive treatment to collected surface water before discharging into land or to a watercourse (end of pipe systems).

Waste Disposal

It is not the purpose of the Plan to prescribe either the preferred methods of dealing with waste materials or specific sites for new facilities. These matters are determined by the producers or holders of waste in the context of land use policies and the Waste Management Strategy for Northern Ireland.
The management of waste is an essential community service. Presently Ards Borough Council operates a transfer station at North Road where waste is transferred to bulk trailers and disposed of outside the Borough. Down District Council operates a landfill site at Drumanakelly, approximately 4 kilometres north of Seaforde.
Ards Borough Council and Down District Council published a waste management plan along with the other councils in the Eastern Region entitled ‘Arc21’ in 2003 and revised in 2006 providing a sustainable solution for the disposal of waste in the area.
Prevailing regional planning policy is provided within Planning Policy Statement 11 (PPS 11): Planning and Waste  Management.


Ards Borough Council and Down District Council have responsibility for a number of cemeteries and burial grounds within the Plan area. Some churches also manage associated cemeteries and burial grounds.


Northern Ireland Electricity will continue to develop existing 33kV and 11 kV distribution networks as customer requirements and demand change in the future. The existing 33kV networks within the Plan area are presently being reinforced.


Telecommunications provision within the Plan area is primarily the responsibility of British Telecom, supplemented by a number of other private companies. There are five providers operating second and third generation mobile telecommunication networks within the Plan area, namely, 3, Vodafone, Orange, O2 (formerly BT Cellnet) and T-Mobile (formerly One to One).

Natural Gas

Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd. has been granted a twenty year licence for the transportation and supply of natural gas in the Greater Belfast Region. Development work on the network in the Newtownards and Comber area has commenced.
Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd is committed to expanding the availability of gas to new areas and in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and the Utility Regulator (NIAUR) is keen to explore further the possibility of bringing gas to the towns along the Downpatrick Economic Corridor.
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