The landscape in the district is finally set to change after the Environment Minister launched a plan aimed at boosting balanced growth, development and employment in Banbridge.
Work originally began in 2000 on the Banbridge/Newry and Mourne Area Plan, which identifies land for specific uses that will help the economy and provide more certainty in the planning process for people living in those areas.
Banbridge district will benefit from 153 hectares of land identified for housing, including social housing. This will mean that local housing needs can continue to be met whilst providing a greater choice of sites. The standard of new housing development will be improved with clear guidance on what is expected, including higher design standards and better paths for cycling and walking.
Fifty hectares of land have been identified for industrial, storage and distribution uses. It is hoped that land zoned in this way will make these kinds of development more attractive to potential investors as well as creating job opportunities.
And 43 hectares of land has been earmarked for mixed use development sites and town centres. .
The Minister, Mark H Durkan said: “This plan will bring many benefits to the Banbridge, Newry and Mourne areas, zoning our land to maximise economic development and new housing, developing Newry and Banbridge further as vibrant hubs.
“The Area Plan will also provide a firm foundation for Councils to formulate their own future plans. The majority of planning powers will transfer to local Councils in April 2015 which will provide the new Councils with the responsibility for preparing a local plan for their area for the first time in over 40 years. It will also allow greater community and public involvement.
“This Plan is not something we are imposing on the area. There has been a good partnership approach, bringing together government departments, councils and the local community working together. What I and DOE are about is creating a better environment and a stronger economy and this plan will certainly help do that.”
Speaking on the delay, Minister Durkan added, “I am aware that work on this Plan commenced in 2000.
“This shows that whilst much good work has been done to reform the planning system there is still more to be done.
“I will continue to bring forward proposals to make the planning system faster, more focused on delivering development and more flexible and responsive to change.”