Introduction

5.6.1Promoting a sustainable approach to the provision of tourism infrastructure (RG4) is one of five elements of regional guidance set out in the RDS aimed at underpinning sustainable economic growth in Northern Ireland. The RDS emphasises the need to support the growth of tourism in NI by achieving balance between tourism development opportunities and conserving natural, built and cultural heritage assets.

5.6.2This approach is reiterated in the draft Marine Plan and also the SPPS, where the aim is to manage the provision of sustainable and high quality tourism developments in appropriate locations within the built and natural environment. The planning system is recognised as having a key role in managing tourism related development through planning policies that provide a framework for identifying appropriate development opportunities and safeguarding tourism assets from harmful development.

5.6.3The SPPS states that there should be a general presumption in favour of tourism development within settlements, subject to meeting normal planning requirements. However, in the countryside tourism development should be carefully managed in the interests of rural amenity, wider sustainability objectives and the long term health of the tourism industry. Councils are required to bring forward a tourism strategy, together with appropriate policies and proposals that must reflect the aim, objectives and policy approach of this SPPS, tailored to the specific circumstances of the plan area.

5.6.4Creating a compelling tourism proposition is one of the key objectives of Council’s Corporate Plan as it is considered that the potential of our tourism product has not been fully realised, and has the promise of delivering greater economic benefit for our area. Safeguarding our tourism assets, is of vital importance, and this in turn depends to a large extent on preserving or enhancing landscape quality and the historic and natural environment of Mid and East Antrim. Our Community Plan highlights the local challenges in relation to tourism. This includes working to ensure our significant tourism assets are developed, packaged and well marketed to local, national and international visitors. One of the outcomes is for our Borough to be a destination of choice with increased visitor numbers and spend on first-class facilities and attractions.

5.6.5Council’s emerging Tourism Strategy aims to use the significant potential of the Causeway Coastal Route and the area’s natural and historic assets to create a strong tourism brand identity and create a compelling package for attracting visitors. The Causeway Coastal Route is considered to be the main attraction that will draw people to visit Mid and East Antrim, with sites, facilities and businesses across the Borough being aligned to the route, to offer stopping off points, places to stay, places to visit and eat and quality experiences. Diversions from the route will encourage visitors to explore other facilities and attractions across the Borough.

5.6.6Strategic proposal SGS8 Tourism Strategy sets out the proposed Tourism Strategy for the LDP. This strategy takes account of the regional and local policy context and is informed by our evidence base. It sets out the framework for the operational planning policies relating to tourism within Part 2.

Proposal/Policy Aims

5.6.7The LDP strategic approach to tourism is set out in our policy aims below.

  • To safeguard assets that are important in attracting tourists or have potential to do so;
  • To accommodate future tourism demand in a balanced and sustainable manner in appropriate locations;
  • To contribute to the economy of Mid and East Antrim by facilitating tourism growth; and
  • To support a high standard quality and design for all tourism development.

SGS8 Tourism Strategy

The LDP Tourism Strategy comprises the following elements:

  • Protection and safeguarding of key tourism assets: Ensure key tourism assets (mainly significant features of the natural and historic environment that attract or have the potential to attract tourists) are protected, conserved and, where possible, enhanced. Delivered through policy on Safeguarding of Tourism Assets to protect their amenity, setting and tourism value.
  • Promote a sustainable approach to tourism development, including tourist accommodation and tourist amenities to meet future tourism demand: Direct tourism developments to settlements and carefully manage tourism development in the countryside in the interest of rural amenity and sustainability objectives. Delivered through policies on Tourism Development in Settlements, Tourist Amenities in the Countryside, Tourist Accommodation in the Countryside and Major Tourism Development in the Countryside – Exceptional Circumstances.
  • Identification of potential tourism growth areas: In addition to a presumption in favour of appropriate tourism development in all settlements, designate, along the Causeway Coastal Route, two tourism opportunity zones with accompanying policy at Carnfunnock Country Park and the former Magheramorne Quarry.
  • Environmental considerations: Tourism proposals will be required to meet the General Policy criteria as well as other relevant provisions of the LDP.
  • Contribution of tourism to sustainable economic development, conservation and urban regeneration: Delivered largely within settlements through council regeneration and place making initiatives. This will be supported in the LDP Local Policies Plan through policies on design and place making.

Justification and Amplification

5.6.8In order to provide broad direction on the potential opportunities and constraints for tourism development in Mid and East Antrim Table 5.7 sets out three categories as follows:

  • Vulnerable
  • Sensitive
  • Opportunity

The potential for tourism development within each category is set out below.

5.6.9Vulnerable Category: includes many of our already designated areas. In these areas the quality and character of the landscape is considered so special and/or the conservation interests are of such significance, that little or no development for tourism or recreation should be permitted within the majority of their extent. The reason is to safeguard the integrity of these assets which underpins their attractiveness to tourists.

5.6.10Sensitive Category: includes the open countryside and a number of our already designated areas. In these areas the character of the landscape, the conservation interest or the existing level of development are such that whilst there may be scope for development, proposals must be sensitive to the particular characteristics of the surrounding environment. Sympathetic development, which by its nature and scale would not be damaging to nature conservation interests or historic environment, and which is sensitive to the landscape could be acceptable at some locations.

5.6.11Opportunity Category: these areas include the remainder of urban and rural settlements particularly where these are located along the coastline. There are also two proposed Opportunity Zones, namely Carnfunnock Country Park and the former Magheramorne Quarry. Such areas are considered to offer opportunities for the development of a range of appropriate quality tourism and recreation schemes in order to build on the existing tourism base and enhance the tourism product. In some cases this may involve the expansion of existing tourism developments.

Table 5.7 Categories for Tourism Potential in Mid and East Antrim

Vulnerable

Tourism Development should not be approved within majority of their extent

Sensitive

Tourism Development should be strictly controlled to respect local environment and characteristics of the area

Opportunity

Largely urban-based and two new proposed areas where majority of Tourism Development will be expected to be located

Undeveloped Coast

Developed Coast

Urban Remainder

Special Countryside Areas (SCAs)

The Countryside

Rural Settlements

Sites of Archaeological Interest
(ASAI, State Care Monuments, Scheduled Monuments)

Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

Carnfunnock Country Park

Nature Conservation Designations
(Ramsar sites, SPAs/SACs, ASSIs, National Nature Reserves, Local Nature Reserves)

Historic Parks, Gardens and Demesnes

Former Magheramorne Quarry

Rural Landscape Wedges

Conservation Areas
(Gracehill Conservation Area Glenarm, Carnlough, Whitehead, Carrickfergus)

 

 

Areas of Townscape Character

Areas of Constraints on High Structures
(Islandmagee - Muldersleigh Hill and White Head, Slemish Mountain, Eastern Garron Plateau and Scarp Slopes, Knockdhu, Sallagh Braes, Scawt Hill to Glenarm Headland, Carrickfergus Escarpment and Lough Beg and the Lower Bann River Corridor)

Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPAs)

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