5.2.1The main purpose of the Settlement Hierarchy is to provide the spatial framework for the delivery of the Spatial Growth Strategy. Therefore, the Settlement Hierarchy essentially defines which settlements throughout the Borough fall into the following categories:

  • Main Towns
  • Small Towns
  • Villages
  • Small Settlements

Areas not designated under these categories will, for the purposes of the LDP, be treated as the Countryside.

5.2.2The Spatial Growth Strategy and the Settlement Hierarchy will set the broad parameters for the distribution of housing, economic development and retail growth through the Borough over the plan period. Further refinement around this will be provided by the various sectoral strategies set out in the remainder of Part 1. Together, this will ensure that new development is directed to the most appropriate places and that the scale of development for any given settlement is commensurate with the capacity of that settlement to support it.

SGS2 Settlement Hierarchy

The designated settlement hierarchy for Mid and East Antrim Borough consists of the settlements set out below:

Table 5.3 Settlement Hierarchy

Main Towns (3)


Small Towns (5)



Villages (11)





Small Settlements (17)


Grange Corner



* New small settlements – considered as being in the open countryside until new settlement limits identified in LPP

Justification and Amplification

5.2.3A total of 36 settlements within the plan area have been designated and split into four tiers based on their role, facilities and services available and their potential for accommodating development in accordance with the RDS Spatial Framework Guidance.

5.2.4The three main towns of Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne have been retained at the top tier of the hierarchy. All these centres have populations well in excess of any of the small towns or villages. They are also predominant in regard to the range of services they offer, their transportation links within and beyond the Borough and the strength of their economic base. All of these considerations underlie the regional status of these settlements, as set out in the RDS and referred to in Table 5.1. As highlighted in the Spatial Growth Strategy they will be the focus for major population growth and economic development.

5.2.5Below this top tier, a detailed settlement evaluation was carried out to determine which settlements should be classified as small towns, as villages and as small settlements. Information on existing provision of education facilities, community facilities, retail provision and accessibility of all settlements were used as indicators to allow settlements to be ranked based on their sustainability. Account was also taken of other relevant factors such as population size and economic development, to refine the overall assessment.

5.2.6This study has resulted in five small towns being designated, the retention of Greenisland and Whitehead plus the former villages of Ahoghill, Broughshane and Cullybackey. Spatially, these small towns are located close to the main towns of Carrickfergus and Ballymena and will support them in providing a range of development opportunities.

5.2.7The Settlement Hierarchy designates, 11 villages, including the former small settlement of Martinstown. They will continue to meet the daily needs of the rural area and provide a range of development opportunities appropriate to their location, size and scale.

5.2.8As part of the settlement evaluation process, it was concluded that 12 existing small settlements should be de-designated and eight new small settlements should be designated. Subject to the adoption of the Plan Strategy, the de-designated settlements will be considered as part of the open countryside when proposals are submitted for assessment. The new small settlements will be considered as being in the open countryside until new settlement limits have been identified at Local Polices Plan stage. Together these 17 small settlements will act as a focal point for the rural community and provide opportunities for small scale development. Further details on the rationale for designation and de-designation are contained in Technical Supplement 2 Settlement Hierarchy and Strategic Settlement Evaluation.

5.2.9In defining settlement limits at Local Policies Plan stage the main objectives will be, to promote and accommodate new development and also, to contain it within the limits in order to maintain a clear distinction between the built-up area and the surrounding countryside. Account will be taken of the RDS direction to achieve compact urban forms, concentrate resources and protect the setting of settlements from urban sprawl. Consideration will also be given to avoiding risk to human health and wellbeing (e.g. excluding land subject to flood risk) and protecting the natural and historic environment (e.g. important landscape features).