Muir Confirms £8.5MIllion For Whitespots Country Park

Funding Confirmed by DAERA Minister for Whitespots Country Park

DAERA Minister, Andrew Muir, has formally confirmed £8.5M of funding for Ards and North Down Borough Council to redevelop Whitespots Country Park.

During a visit to the redevelopment site at Whitespots, Minister Muir said: “This investment of over £8.5 million to redevelop this parkland will not only transform the existing park but will also extend it to develop the derelict industrial site of the lead mines into an active community space for the people of Ards and North Down and visitors alike.

“This project will provide a significant capital injection in the area and will develop our local environment to provide much needed green space for citizens.”

£7.4m is coming from the Executive’s City/Growth Deals Complementary Fund, with an additional £1.1m from the Environment Fund with the Council providing additional funds which brings the investment close to £10m.

This will enable the Council to progress Phase 1 of its plans for the Park.

This includes upgrading of the current paths and trails to make the site more accessible for visitors, the development of a separate area for trial bikes; and the creation of a new visitor hub with toilets and refreshment facilities.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Alistair Cathcart, with DAERA Minister Andrew Muir, and Stephen Harding, Director, McAdam Design. (Image: Ian Pedlow).

The funding will also enable the restoration of some of the historical features of the Park including the old mine shafts and the windmill towers; as well as enhancement of the woodland in line with the Council’s biodiversity strategy.

Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Alistair Cathcart, welcomed the Minister to the Whitespots site and said: “It’s a pleasure to have Minister Muir on site with us to recognise this exciting step forward for Whitespots.

“With sympathetic and sustainable redevelopment, we firmly believe Whitespots has the potential to become ‘a jewel in the crown’ of our Borough.

“It is situated at the gateway to the Ards Peninsula and within easy reach of a significant population base. This funding will enable us deliver Phase 1 of our plans to create a Park that welcomes visitors of all ages, abilities and interests.”

Minister Muir added: “The Complementary Fund will help highlight the industrial and social cultural history of the site whilst the Environment Fund will provide a significant opportunity for much improved access to nature for people of all abilities to explore and find out about the geodiversity, biodiversity and the fantastic views this site provides.

“This investment will encourage more visitors to Whitespots and will lead to the creation of new jobs, all of which is great for a sustainable local economy.”

The Council has previously presented an ambitious vision for the Park, to be delivered in phases and as funding can be secured, that would create a unique open landscape.

“Concept ideas included a fully accessible ‘trails experience’ of national significance, as well as new woodland areas, restored historical features (mining and military), a playground and the potential for adventure sports including zip lines and a pump track. Connections to Cairn Wood and the Borough’s Greenway network would also be developed.

The Council has recently appointed local company McAdam Design as the lead consultant for the project. McAdam will be working on designs for the Park to be submitted to the Planning Service in mid-2026.

McAdam Director, Stephen Harding, said: “McAdam are excited about the opportunity to work with Ards and North Down Borough Council in unlocking the great potential of Whitespots Country Park, to bring this hidden gem to life and deliver environmental, health and wellbeing and heritage benefits to the communities of Newtownards, Bangor and beyond.

“Together with the Council we will be engaging with current users, local stakeholders, environment and heritage agencies and potential investors in the area as we aim to develop sensitive but inspiring design ideas for the Park.”

Whitespots Country Park is located between Bangor and Newtownards. A portion of the park is designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in recognition of the site’s mineralogy.

The park also houses former lead mines developed in the 18th and 19th centuries underscoring its pivotal role in Ireland’s mining heritage.

The Park is already popular with local walkers, providing beautiful views towards Scrabo and the Peninsula.

In August 2024, the Council will be holding two ‘bio-blitz’ events allowing the community to join ecologists at the park and learn more about the native species on site and how to identify them.

A bat night walk will be held in September.  More information on these will be published on the Council social media channels in the coming weeks.