Ards and North Down Borough Council

Offering many beautiful rural and urban locations, ease of access to Belfast, an established tourism infrastructure, a flourishing arts scene, and specialist business support services for all sectors, Ards and North Down is fast becoming the place to live, work, visit and invest.

Coast and connections

The borough of Ards and North Down has a population of more than 158,000 people and covers an area of more than 228 square miles. It comprises five towns and 19 villages. 68 per cent of the population is economically active compared to the average of 66 per cent across Northern Ireland.

The borough enjoys good rail and road links and is recognised as a part of the commuter belt for the Greater Belfast area. Located on the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, Portaferry provides an easy gateway from the South East.

The borough is bound by 115 miles of coastline, one of the longest in Northern Ireland, and features Strangford Lough, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Special Scientific Interest and a Marine Nature Reserve. Bangor is home to the island of Ireland’s largest marina with space for 600 boats.

Connectivity is growing across the area. All five towns – Bangor, Newtownards, Holywood, Comber and Donaghadee – offer free WiFi and Superfast Broadband rollout is supported by the Council and the Department for the Economy.

Rebuilding and reviving

In partnership with the Department for Communities, Ards and North Down Borough Council has recently invested £21 million in public realm schemes in all five of the borough’s towns. Each town is rich in culture, tradition and atmosphere and the designs developed reflect the uniqueness of the individual locations.

The five towns each have a Masterplan that provides an overarching framework for regeneration for 10-15 years. Each Masterplan details a vision for the town, environmental improvement schemes and promotional activities, and each has a prioritised Action Plan for the delivery of projects through partnership working with key stakeholders.

Investment and innovation

The Council has committed to investing up to £70 million in both new and existing facilities across the borough over the next two years. These include improvements to the 18th Century Portaferry Market House, enhancements to the Victorian Ward Park in Bangor and the construction of a new leisure centre in Newtownards.

The Department of Agricultural Environment and Rural Affairs’, Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 has allocated £3.85 million to Ards and North Down Rural Partnership to support the implementation of its Local Rural Development Strategy. The Council is responsible for providing an administration and financial management function to the Partnership which will provide a number of funding opportunities to the borough.

Creative and unique

With more than 337,000 overnight trips annually, contributing £51 million to the area, tourism is a mainstay of the local economy.

The reopening of Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry in August 2016 has contributed to the revitalisation of the peninsula and has now attracted in excess of 100,000 visitors.

Ards and North Down is home to more than 200 arts and crafts businesses and is developing a growing reputation as a hub for the creative industries.

The award-winning Project 24 in Bangor offers studios for 12 artists from different mediums (painters, sculptors, photographers, textile artists) to develop and showcase their work. In order to further support this growing sector of the economy, the Council has funded a Creative Industries mapping exercise to try to identify the economic impact of all the creative sub-sectors in the borough.

The town has been further invigorated by the unrivalled success of the month-long Open House Festival, which runs throughout August. In 2016 it included 125 events, taking place in more than 40 venues and offered a mix of music, film, food and drink, theatre, literature, comedy and art.

As well as an apt descriptor for the area, the Creative Peninsula is an annual event celebrating art and craft that runs in August. It connects people with the makers of the crafts they like to buy and features a range of open studio events, tours and workshops.

Food and farming

Last year, we celebrated the Year of Food and Drink. In Ards and North Down we ran a series of events to showcase local producers. The developing food visitor product resulted in an award-winning Comber Farmers’ Market and Highly Commended Comber Earlies Food Festival at the NI Year of Food and Drink Awards. Currently, the Council is undertaking a Food Destination Development Study, which will deliver a programme of initiatives and activity to make the borough a premier food destination on the island of Ireland by 2020.

Ards and North Down boasts a very strong and multi-faceted agri-food industry that ranges from micro-companies to large exporting companies, many of which are high profile award-winners. Thanks to its local farmers, growers and restaurants constantly creating high quality, award-winning produce, it really is a foodie haven!

Employment and enterprise

The Council recognises the importance of providing tailored support for local businesses and offers unique services via a dedicated staff team based at the Signal Centre in Bangor. Officers assist business people and entrepreneurs at all stages of development – from those interested in setting up a business, to those who are seeking to grow and expand, to those who want to invest. In the past year almost 600 businesses have benefitted from the services available including one-to-one interactions and mentoring, assistance with market research, advice on funding and signposting, events and workshops.

Looking forward, the Council will further enhance its services with a focus on social entrepreneurship. The Council has successfully run the first year of the AND Social Entrepreneurship programme and created 12 new jobs in this sector. Ongoing work with the local schools, colleges and business support networks will be prioritised to help ensure the area continues to offer a qualified and able workforce that can meet business needs.

Finally, as well as managing the ‘Go-For-It’ Programme, the Council also ran the Business BOOST Programme. This Programme is based around meeting the individual needs of local businesses to accelerate local competitiveness and growth. Launched in June 2016 with the allocation of 20 full mentoring places and 14 mini-BOOST places, the first round of the programme achieved positive results including the creation of 15 new jobs and sustaining a total of 77 jobs.

Be part of the AND success story.

With so much on offer, whether you are seeking employment, want to explore enterprise or need advice and assistance at any stage in the business life cycle, Ards and North Down could be the place for you.


Contact us to find out more. 

Clare McGill, Head of Economic Development 

Ards and North Down Borough Counci l
Signal Centre, 2 Innotec Drive, Balloo Road
Bangor, BT19 7PD

T: 028 9147 3788



Related Posts