2. Setting the Context
In preparing the draft Plan Strategy, Council has had regard to regional policy context and the local policy context, as specifically directed by the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 and also other legislation that establishes a statutory link with the Local Development Plan. Aside from this, the draft Plan Strategy has also taken account of other policies and guidance issued by DfI and other government departments. Regard has also been had to various Council plans and strategies operating at the local level. A summary of the main elements of the regional and local policy context that informs the draft Plan Strategy is set out below. However, it should be noted that this list is not exhaustive. Where relevant, additional regional or local policies and/or guidance, are referred to within the document.
2.1 Regional Policy Context
Draft Northern Ireland Programme for Government
2.1.1The draft Northern Ireland Programme for Government (PfG) was published by The Executive Office in May 2016. The Planning (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 specifically requires the LDP to take account of the PfG. The purpose of the PfG is to improve the wellbeing of all citizens in Northern Ireland by tackling disadvantage, and driving economic growth. The framework is focused on the achievement of 14 high level strategic outcomes which are supported by a range of indicators in order to measure their success. Local Development Plans are a key delivery tool for the achievement of a number of these outcomes. Accordingly, the draft PfG has been taken into account in preparing the draft Plan Strategy. The ongoing development of the LDP will be informed by any final version of the PfG that may be published by the government.
Regional Development Strategy 2035
2.1.2The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) ‘Building a Better Future’ was published by the former Department for Regional Development in March 2012. It is the government’s overarching spatial strategy for Northern Ireland up to 2035. The RDS seeks to influence the future distribution of development throughout the Region with a view to achieving sustainable development and social cohesion. It does this by setting out:
- Strategic Regional Guidance relating to society, the economy and the environment;
- A Spatial Framework which divides the Region into five components;
- Specific guidance for each of the five regional components;
- Regionally Significant Economic Infrastructure considerations; and
2.1.3The Planning (Northern Ireland) Act 2011 specifically requires the LDP to take account of the RDS. Chapter 5.0 of the draft Plan Strategy demonstrates how our LDP Spatial Growth Strategy takes account of the RDS Spatial Framework Guidance. Other aspects of how our LDP takes account of the RDS are referred to in succeeding chapters of the draft Plan Strategy.
Strategic Planning Policy Statement
2.1.4The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) was published by the former Department for Environment in September 2015. It is in general conformity with the RDS and aims to further sustainable development and improve wellbeing through the planning system. In pursuit of these aims, the SPPS sets out five core planning principles to underpin the reformed planning system, as follows:
- Improving health and wellbeing.
- Creating and enhancing shared space.
- Supporting the economy.
- Supporting good design and place shaping.
- Preserving and Improving the built and natural environment.
2.1.5In addition, the SPPS incorporates a regional planning policy framework which sets out the strategic direction for all Councils in bringing forward detailed operational policies through their LDPs. This framework sets out regional strategic objectives and associated strategic policy covering 16 subject areas (such as housing, transportation, economic development).
2.1.6Given the direction that the SPPS provides in relation to the preparation of LDPs in order to meets its regional strategic objectives, this document has been one of the most important aspects of the regional policy context that has been taken into account by Council in preparing the draft Plan Strategy.
Sustainable Development Strategy
2.1.7The Planning Act requires that LDPs are prepared with the objective of furthering sustainable development. Accordingly the draft Plan Strategy has taken account of government’s Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS), ‘Everyone’s Involved’ published in May 2010. The aim of the SDS is to identify and develop actions on the part of government and all other stakeholders that will help to grow the economy, promote equality and social cohesion, and utilise natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner. The SDS sets out six guiding principles of sustainable development which together are intended to deliver the Strategy. These are:
- Living within environmental limits.
- Ensuring a strong, healthy, just and equal society.
- Achieving a sustainable economy.
- Promoting good governance.
- Using sound science responsibly.
- Promoting opportunity and innovation.
2.1.8In addition to this, the LDP will also have regard to furthering sustainable development through a Sustainability Appraisal (incorporating Strategic Environmental Assessment or SEA) for both the Plan Strategy and the Local Policies Plan. This is to ensure the integration of social, economic and environmental considerations into the Plan preparation process.
Regional Transportation Strategy
2.1.9Ensuring a Sustainable Transport Future (ESTF) ‘A New Approach to Regional Transportation’ was published by DfI in June 2011. It complements the RDS and contains high level aims and strategic objectives to:
- Support the growth of the economy through transportation.
- Enhance the quality of life for all.
- Reduce the environmental impact of transport.
2.1.10The Strategy sets out the Department’s (DfI) approach to regional transportation and is intended to be used to guide strategic investment decisions beyond 2015.
Regional Water Strategy
2.1.11‘Sustainable Water – a Long Term Water Strategy for Northern Ireland (2015 -2040)’ was published by DfI in March 2016. It sets out a range of initiatives to deliver the Executive’s long term goal of a sustainable water sector. The strategy identifies how planning can impact on flood risk and water quality and aims to ensure that such matters as well as existing water and wastewater infrastructure capacity and future investment proposals inform the preparation of the LDP.
UK Marine Policy Statement
2.1.12The UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS) was published in September 2011 and was prepared and adopted under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The statement provides the policy framework for the Marine Planning system and for taking decisions that have the potential to impact on the marine environment. The policy framework will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the UK’s marine area which includes both offshore and inshore regions including all tidal rivers and sea loughs. As Mid and East Antrim includes a significant part of the Antrim coast the draft Plan Strategy has had regard to the MPS.
Draft Marine Plan for Northern Ireland
2.1.13The draft Marine Plan for Northern Ireland was published in April 2018 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). The draft Marine Plan has been developed within the framework of the UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS) in order to protect and sustainably manage the marine environment in Northern Ireland and facilitate sustainable development including coastal areas. The draft Marine Plan will inform and guide the regulation, management, use and protection of our marine area, both the offshore and inshore regions. The draft Marine Plan for Northern Ireland (2018) was taken into account in preparing the draft Plan Strategy and will continue to inform the LDP process, until such time as a future Marine Plan is adopted.
Planning Policy Statements
2.1.14A suite of retained Planning Policy Statements (mostly published by the former DOE) currently provide operational planning policy across a range of subject areas and apply to the whole of Northern Ireland. The SPPS states that the existing suite of retained PPSs as they apply to Mid and East Antrim, will cease to have effect when we adopt our new Plan Strategy. Until that time, a transitional period will operate when the PPSs will continue to be applied (along with other material considerations) in the determination of planning applications.
2.1.15In preparing the draft Plan Strategy, the operational policies contained in all the PPS documents have been reviewed, taking due account of the SPPS and other relevant aspects of the regional and local policy context.
A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
2.1.16A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland (PSRNI) was published in 1993 by the former DOE. It provided a compendium of policies that have gradually been replaced by the subsequent PPSs and SPPS. However, a small number of residual policies remain in operation. As with the PPSs, these residual policies will cease to have effect once we adopt our Plan Strategy for the whole of the Borough.
Supplementary Planning Guidance
2.1.17A range of supplementary planning guidance supports the regional policies contained in various PPSs and the SPPS. As indicated in the SPPS these are to be retained as material planning considerations. Details as to how this guidance has been taken account in preparing associated strategic subject policies is referred to in Part 2 of the draft Plan Strategy.
Other Strategies and Plans
2.1.18In preparing the draft Plan Strategy, regard has also been had to the following:
- The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (May 2011)
- The Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2020 (July 2015)
- Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy ‘Delivering Resource Efficiency’ (Oct 2013)
- ‘Lifetime Opportunities - Government’s Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Strategy for Northern Ireland’ (Nov 2006)
- Thinking Rural – The Essential Guide to Rural Proofing (March 2011)
- Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment 2000 (NILCA) (1999)
- Northern Ireland Regional Seascape Character Assessment (Jan 2014)
2.2 Local Policy Context
Existing Development Plans
2.2.1The existing development or area plans that apply to Mid and East Antrim Borough are:
- Ballymena Area Plan 1986-2001, adopted in 1989
- Larne Area Plan 2010, adopted in 1998
- Carrickfergus Area Plan 2001, adopted in March 2000
2.2.2It is worth noting that the Ballymena and Larne Area Plans were adopted before the first version of the RDS was published in 2001 and also before the publication of any of the PPS documents. Accordingly, these older plans are not based upon the principles of sustainable development which underpin the more recent regional direction. This can present some difficulty in the current context of a plan-led system. Both plans have also gone long past their notional end date, nevertheless, they provide the starting point for the review of spatial planning options for the Larne and Ballymena areas in the LDP and therefore are an important consideration in the preparation of the draft Plan Strategy.
2.2.3The Carrickfergus Area Plan 2001 was formerly superseded by the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015 (BMAP) in September 2014. However, on 18 May 2017 a judgement in the Court of Appeal ruled that the process in relation to the final adoption of BMAP was unlawful. As a result the Carrickfergus Area Plan remains the statutory development plan for Carrickfergus, Greenisland and Whitehead. The Carrickfergus Area Plan 2001 was also published prior to the RDS and is also long past its notional end date. Given that draft BMAP (2004) was at an advanced stage and had progressed through the formal public local inquiry process, Council has considered draft BMAP (2004) in combination with the Planning Appeals Commission Inquiry report in the preparation of this draft Plan Strategy.
2.2.4The adopted Plan strategy will replace the strategic elements of the existing development plans relevant to Mid and East Antrim. Local designations and associated policies will remain in place until superseded by the adoptions of the Mid and East Antrim Local Policies Plan.
Corporate Plan 2019 - 2023
2.2.5Our Corporate Plan sets out the Council’s vision, themes and objectives that will shape our work and the services that we provide up until 2023. The aim of the Corporate Plan is to deliver the same long term vision and outcomes for the Borough that are set out in the Community Plan. The key objectives of the Plan are identified under five main themes all of which fall under the wider strategic theme to be a high performing council:
- Sustainable jobs and tourism.
- Good health and wellbeing.
- Learning for life.
- Community safety and cohesion.
- Our environment.
2.2.6The Corporate Plan acknowledges that the LDP, along with the Community Plan and other Council Strategies, will be key mechanisms to assist in meeting our Council’s objectives.
2.2.7Our Community Plan – ‘Putting People First’ was published in April 2017 and covers the period from 2017 to 2032. The vision of the Community Plan is that: “Mid and East Antrim will be a strong, safe and inclusive community, where people work together to improve the quality of life for all”. The strategic priorities set out in the Community Plan have been identified through joint working with 12 statutory partner organisations and informed by extensive consultation with the public and community and stakeholder groups. The strategic priorities are developed around the five key themes that now inform the Corporate Plan.
2.2.8The Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 sets out a statutory link between the Community Plan and the LDP, in that the preparation of the LDP must take account of the Community Plan. The strategic priorities of our Community Plan have therefore been taken into consideration in the preparation of the draft Plan Strategy. As work on the LDP progresses, we will seek to deliver on any community planning outcomes where there is an identified spatial land use or local planning policy solution.
Integrated Economic Development Strategy
2.2.9Our Integrated Economic Development Strategy (IEDS) – ‘Amplify’ was published in May 2018 and covers the period from 2018-2030. Amplify's strategic framework is intended to catalyse and guide the work of all stakeholders as they strive to improve the prospects of the area’s people, businesses and communities. Amplify will be delivered through five strategic economic priorities which complement the objectives of the Community Plan and including: Enterprise and Entrepreneurship; Innovation; Employment and Skills; Infrastructure; and Inclusion and Wellbeing.
2.2.10Amplify recognises that building economic capacity and capability within our Borough is crucial to the creation of an attractive place where people want to live and work. It places specific focus on five priority sectors: Advanced Manufacturing; Agri-foods; Tourism; Financial and Business; and Digital. As an ‘integrated’strategy it will ensure an integrated approach to economic development in the Borough and dovetail with the NI Executive’s PfG and Northern Ireland Economic Strategy when these have been finalised. Amplify also includes details of strategic economic development projects to be advanced during the period in order to deliver on the Strategy. The draft Plan Strategy has taken account of these strategic priorities that can be addressed through the planning system.