Introduction

5.9.1The Borough of Mid and East Antrim is predominately a rural area. The open countryside is home to some 22% of the population of the Borough and is an important location for a number of economic activities, mainly in the agricultural, tourism, renewable energy and minerals sectors.

5.9.2Our countryside is also an important environmental resource. Landscape and seascape is often of high quality. Approximately 370 square kilometres of the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty falls within the Borough. Aside from the rural farmed landscape which predominates around Ballymena, the countryside of Mid and East Antrim is a diverse landscape that is distinguished by remote upland moorlands, glens and river corridors, a stunning coastline in the east, and areas of extensive wetland associated with Lough Beg in the west. All of these landscapes have their own distinctive rural and cultural character and accommodate a diverse range of natural habitats, wildlife species, and heritage assets.

5.9.3Our countryside is also of significant social and community value, offering opportunities for activities such as hill walking, cycling, sailing, angling and many other types of outdoor recreation and leisure activities. The value of the countryside in this regard is recognised in our Community Plan which seeks to promote ‘good health and wellbeing’ through encouraging healthier lifestyles, while ‘Increasing Awareness’ and developing ‘positive attitudes’ towards ‘our environment’.

5.9.4Council recognises the value of the countryside and seeks, through the LDP, to protect and where possible enhance the rural environment, whilst promoting sustainable economic development that is appropriate to the rural context. A vibrant and sustainable rural environment can be a driver for economic prosperity and job creation, as exemplified by the recent fast growth in tourism associated with the Gobbins historic cliff path in Islandmagee. However, it is also recognised that meeting both of these aims requires careful management through the planning system.

5.9.5Accordingly, the aim of the LDP Countryside Strategy, in line with the SPPS, is to “manage development in a manner which strikes a sustainable balance between protection of the environment from inappropriate development, while supporting and sustaining rural communities, consistent with the RDS”.This aim is also generally reflected in the LDP Spatial Growth Strategy, as it relates to the open countryside, outside of settlement limits.

Proposal / Policy Aims

5.9.6In order to achieve this ‘sustainable balance’, the LDP Countryside Strategy embodies a two-pronged approach, which is captured in the two main policy aims below.

  • To facilitate development which contributes to a sustainable rural economy in Mid and East Antrim; and
  • To protect, conserve, and where possible enhance the rural landscape, seascape, natural environment, and historical and cultural heritage assets associated with the countryside of Mid and East Antrim.

Implementation

5.9.7The first policy aim will be delivered through Strategic Policy CS1, which sets out the various types of development which will be acceptable in principle in the countryside. It is important that this strategic policy is read in conjunction with the General Policy and also the relevant Subject Policies in Part 2, as together, these will ensure that all development in the countryside is sustainable, appropriate and of high quality.

5.9.8The second policy aim will be delivered primarily through the Strategic Spatial Proposals CS2-CS8, and associated strategic policies set out in the remainder of this section. These proposals set out a range of strategic spatial designations which are all depicted on the District Proposals Maps. The rationale underpinning these designations is contained in the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) within Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment.

Sustainable Development in the Countryside

5.9.9There are a range of types of development which in principle are considered to be acceptable in the countryside and that will contribute to the aims of sustainable development. Details of these are set out below. Other types of development will only be permitted where there are overriding reasons why that development is essential and could not be located in a settlement. These policies aim to strike a balance between the need to protect the countryside from unnecessary or inappropriate development, while supporting rural communities.

5.9.10All proposals for development in the countryside must be sited and designed to integrate sympathetically with their surroundings and to meet other planning and environmental requirements including those for drainage, access and road safety.

CS1 Sustainable Development in the Countryside

Opportunities for development in the countryside are permitted through the following policies:

Housing Development

  • an alteration or extension to a dwelling house where this is in accordance with Policy HOU3;
  • travellers accommodation where this is in accordance with Policy HOU8;
  • a replacement dwelling in accordance with Policy HOU9;
  • a dwelling on a farm business in accordance with Policy HOU10;
  • a dwelling to meet the essential needs of a non-agricultural business enterprise in accordance with Policy HOU11;
  • a dwelling sited within an existing cluster of buildings in accordance with Policy HOU12;
  • the development of a small gap site within an otherwise substantial and continuously built up frontage in accordance with Policy HOU13;
  • a dwelling based on special personal or domestic circumstances in accordance with Policy HOU14;
  • a residential caravan or mobile home in accordance with Policy HOU15;
  • the provision of affordable housing in accordance with Policy HOU16;
  • the conversion of a listed building to residential use in accordance with Policy HE3; or
  • the conversion/reuse of a non-listed locally important/vernacular building to a dwelling(s) in accordance with Policy HE8.

Non-Residential Development

  • economic development proposals in accordance with Policy ECD4;
  • tourism development in accordance with Policies TOU1 and TOU3 to TOU8;
  • minerals development in accordance with Policies MIN1 to MIN8;
  • sport and outdoor recreational proposal in accordance with Policy OSL5;
  • renewable energy proposals in accordance with Policy RE1;
  • the conversion/reuse of a non-listed locally important/vernacular building to a non-residential use in accordance with Policy HE8; or
  • the conversion of a listed building to non-residential use in accordance with Policy HE3.

There are a range of other types of non-residential development that may be acceptable in principle in the countryside, e.g. certain utilities, telecommunications or infrastructure development.

All proposals must meet the requirements of the relevant policy (or policies). In addition, proposals must satisfy the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

CS2 Special Countryside Areas

Special Countryside Areas (SCAs) are designated at the following locations (refer to District Proposals Maps) in order to protect the exceptional landscape, unique amenity value and the environmental assets associated with the natural and historic environment of these areas:

  • Larne Coast
  • The Gobbins Coast
  • Slemish Mountain
  • Lough Beg

Within all these SCAs there will be a presumption against all new development other than in exceptional circumstances. A proposal must fully demonstrate that it constitutes one of the exceptions listed below and that it will not result in an adverse impact on the landscape quality, or landscape character, or unique amenity value, or the environmental assets of the SCA (hereafter collectively referred to in this policy as the impact on the SCA).

Exceptions

  1. the proposed development is of such national or regional importance as to outweigh any potential adverse impact on the SCA; or
  2. the proposed development is for the in-situ replacement of an existing dwelling or building (of the same use and similar in size and height as the existing); or
  3. the proposal relates to the minor8 extension or alteration of an existing dwelling, any proposed extension or alteration should be sympathetic in character and scale to the original dwelling; or
  4. the proposed development relates to minor operations9 or necessary improvements to existing infrastructure10; or
  5. the proposed development relates to the provision of appropriate open space, pathways or recreational facilities for the enjoyment of the public; or
  6. the proposed development is a council led or supported tourism project at an existing tourist/visitor site.

All development proposals will also be required to meet the General Policy criteria and accord with other provisions of the LDP. In the case of the two coastal SCAs, development proposals must have regard to the Marine Policy Statement and the Draft Marine Plan for NI.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.11In line with the SPPS, the LDP has designated four Special Countryside Areas (SCAs) on the basis that these key areas of Mid and East Antrim are exceptional landscapes, wherein the quality of the landscape and unique amenity value is such, that development will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. The Larne Coast SCA and Slemish Mountain SCA are both iconic landscapes within the broader Antrim Coast and Glens AONB. They are also landscapes which give definition to the unique character of Mid and East Antrim. All of the SCAs are also of unique amenity value. The two coastal SCAs form part of the Causeway Coastal Route, and by virtue of features such as the coast road and the Gobbins cliff path, they are of unique amenity value for tourists and visitors. Slemish Mountain because of its historic association with Saint Patrick, and Lough Beg because of its international status as a wetland habitat, also offer unique amenity value. The evidence to support these designations is contained in the Landscape Character Assessment within Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment).

5.9.12Whilst there is a general presumption against all development within these SCAs, the policy allows for a number of exceptions. In all cases, the proposal will be required to minimise the visual and environmental impact and respect the tranquil and often wild character of these areas. To this end, Council may require the submission of additional assessments which fully demonstrate that the landscape value, heritage, ecology and biodiversity of the area has been fully considered and that any adverse impacts can be effectively mitigated.

5.9.13Whilst the policy makes provision for a proposal of national or regional importance, the applicant will be required to make a compelling case to demonstrate why a location within an SCA is necessary, and why potential alternative sites outside the SCA are unsuitable. Where such a development proposal requires a coastal location, alternative coastal sites outside of the Larne Coast and Gobbins Coast SCAs, and preferably within a coastal settlement, will need to be considered first. Where development is permitted under this exception, adequate mitigation and/or compensatory measures must be agreed with Council in advance of planning permission being granted. The Marine Policy Statement and draft Marine Plan for NI will be taken into account in assessing such proposals within coastal SCAs.

5.9.14The potential impact of a replacement dwelling should be carefully considered, particularly where the proposal by virtue of its scale or design may have visual and amenity implications. The visual impact of the replacement dwelling must not be significantly greater than the original building and should integrate well into the landscape. Accordingly, all replacement proposals will be required to be constructed within the established curtilage11 of the site. Permission will not be granted for offsite replacements. This policy needs to be read in conjunction with other relevant policies in the LDP, in particular Policy HOU9 Replacement Dwelling.

5.9.15Proposals for the extension or alteration of a dwelling must be minor, sympathetic and subordinate to the existing dwelling and respect the character of the surrounding area. With regard to the size of any new extension, ‘minor’ will be interpreted as being an increase in the overall volume of no more than 30% of the size of the original dwelling. If the original dwelling is considered to be a Non-listed Locally Important or Vernacular Building, consideration must also be given to preserving particular features of architectural or historic interest, (refer to Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building for further information).

5.9.16As these SCAs are of unique amenity value, it is important that they can be enjoyed by the public and tourists in a sustainable manner and in a way that does not diminish the quality of the resource itself. Accordingly, the policy makes provision for development that will enhance the enjoyment and understanding of these unique areas.

CS3 Areas of Constraint on High Structures

Areas of Constraint on High Structures (ACHS) are designated at the following locations (refer to District Proposals Maps) in order to protect the distinctive and vulnerable landscapes and the environmental assets associated with the natural and historic environment of the following areas:

  • Islandmagee East and Whitehead
  • Slemish Mountain
  • Eastern Garron Plateau and Scarp Slopes
  • Knockdhu, Sallagh Braes, Scawt Hill to Glenarm Headland
  • Carrickfergus Escarpment
  • Lough Beg and the Lower Bann River Corridor

 

Structures up to 15m in Height

Within all of these areas, development proposals for wind turbines, electricity pylons or telecommunications masts/equipment less than 15 metres in height above original ground level will be permitted, provided they:

  1. do not interrupt key views from public vantage points;
  2. are not visually prominent in the landscape; and
  3. can be integrated into the landscape in a satisfactory manner.

 

Structures above 15m and up to 25m in Height

In exceptional circumstances, structures that exceed 15m may be permitted subject to a maximum height of 25m where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. there is a need for a structure of this height;
  2. there are no suitable alternative sites located outside of the designated area; and
  3. appropriate mitigation measures are in place to minimise the impact of the proposed development on the designated area.

 

Structures above 25m in Height

Structures that exceed 25m will only be permitted if it can be clearly demonstrated that:

  1. the proposal is of such regional significance as to outweigh any detrimental impact on the landscape character and/or environmental integrity of the designated area; and
  2. appropriate mitigation measures are in place to minimise the impact of the proposed development on the designated area.

 

Within Areas of Constraint on High Structures, any other form of energy infrastructure development, irrespective of its height, will not be permitted where it is visually prominent, or will otherwise adversely impact on landscape character and/or the environmental integrity of these areas.

All development proposals will be required to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.17Within the rural area of Mid and East Antrim, some areas can adequately accommodate the development of public utilities and high structures without unduly compromising visual amenity and local character. However, in line with the SPPS it is important to identify those landscapes which are distinctive and vulnerable to this particular form of development, and to apply a cautionary approach in the determination of such proposals.

5.9.18The areas designated under this policy are supported by the evidence contained in the Landscape Character Assessment within Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment).

5.9.19Landscape impacts are defined as changes in the fabric, character and quality of the landscape as a result of the development. Visual impacts relate solely to changes in available views of the landscape, and the effects of those changes on people. This includes the impact on visual amenity as enjoyed or experienced by receptors – for example from a main transport route, a settlement or a tourist attraction. The definition of all these designated areas is therefore informed not only by inherent landscape quality and character, but also by the views available from main receptor vantage points.

5.9.20The aim of this policy is to ensure that those unique features of the landscape that contribute to its character, value, distinctiveness, sense of place, and quality are protected from inappropriate development relating to the introduction or proliferation of tall structures. Safeguarding the distinctive character of these areas is important to maintain the identity of the Borough and in providing opportunities for sustainable tourism growth in line with Council’s strategic priorities.

5.9.21Within designated ACHS there will be a presumption against development of wind turbines, electricity pylons or telecommunications masts/ equipment that exceed 15 metres in height or any other forms of energy infrastructure development that will adversely impact on the landscape character by virtue of their visual prominence and/or the environmental integrity of the designated area. Other forms of energy infrastructure could potentially include overhead electricity cables or solar energy infrastructure.

5.9.22The policy allows for smaller wind turbines up to 15m in height that serve local farms and remote rural communities. Development within these parameters will be considered acceptable provided all other policy tests are met and the visual impact of the development is minimised through mitigation measures that ensure the satisfactory integration of the development into the landscape. The protection of key views of landscape or heritage assets and their settings within the ACHS will be particularly important. Any development proposals which individually or cumulatively prejudice the overall integrity of the ACHS will be refused.

5.9.23The height of turbines or other such infrastructure relative to other structures in the landscape is a key consideration in terms of landscape ‘fit’. The 15m threshold is considered appropriate because this relates well to the size of existing buildings in the landscape, including typical farm buildings. A single turbine of this height is most likely to be used to contribute to the energy needs of a residential house, farm or other rural based small business. It is relatively easy to accommodate in the landscape, if sited to cluster with existing buildings. Such turbines are also more easily screened or concealed by low ridges and undulating landform and tree cover.

5.9.24Minimising the sustained visibility of micro-turbines helps limit detrimental cumulative visual impacts. Therefore, it is preferable to site on the leeward sides of ridges and prominent hill slopes, rather than on summits and high points. In circumstances where the scope for concealing or screening turbines is limited, providing broad consistency of turbine design, height and location can help mitigate against potential visual impacts.

5.9.25The policy also allows for structures above 15 metres but less than 25 metres in height in circumstances where there is a need for height and where it is demonstrated that there are no suitable alternative sites outside of the designated area. Such cases will be assessed on their merits. While due account will be taken of technical reasons for exceeding the 15 metre threshold, the infrastructure provider will also need to justify why an alternative site outside of the designated area is not feasible. The lack of land ownership outside of the designated area will not in itself be regarded as sufficient justification in this context.

5.9.26Structures that exceed 25 metres in height will only be granted permission in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they are of such regional significance as to outweigh any adverse impact within the designated area. All proposals for structures exceeding 15 metres in height must demonstrate that appropriate mitigation measures can be put in place to mitigate the impact of the development in the designated area. This policy should be read in conjunction with other relevant policies in the LDP, in particular Policy RE1 Renewable Energy Development and Policy TOC1 Telecommunications and Overhead Cables.

CS4 Rural Landscape Wedges

Rural Landscape Wedges are designated at the following locations as shown on the District Proposals Maps in order to prevent coalescence between settlements and to maintain the open character of these areas:

  • Greenisland and Jordanstown
  • Carrickfergus and Greenisland

Development within a designated Rural Landscape Wedge will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. the proposed use is either conducive to or enhances the open character of the Rural Landscape Wedge;
  2. the proposal respects the rural setting in terms of layout and design and minimises visual intrusion into the landscape; and
  3. does not contribute to the coalescence between settlements.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.27Rural Landscape Wedges have a strategic function to prevent coalescence between settlements and to protect the open nature of land between settlements and urban areas. The spread of development into these areas is likely to result in the incremental loss of green space, which if left unchecked could promote an undesirable trend towards the coalescence of settlements. This in turn would compromise the individual identity and setting of settlements as well as the quality of the landscape separating them. The policy therefore aims to resist development proposals that would fail to maintain the open character of these Rural Landscape Wedges.

5.9.28Designated Rural Landscape Wedges will:

  • distinguish and maintain the separate identities and settings of the settlements of Greenisland and Metropolitan Newtownabbey at Jordanstown.
  • distinguish and maintain the separate identities and settings of the settlements of Carrickfergus and Greenisland.

CS5 Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Development proposals within the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or its setting, will only be permitted if there is no adverse individual or cumulative impact on its exceptional landscape quality, distinctive character, heritage and wildlife, which would prejudice its overall integrity.

All new development proposals within the AONB or its setting must meet the General Policy, accord with other provisions of the plan and meet all of the following additional criteria:

  1. the nature and intensity of the proposed use is compatible with the landscape and distinctive character of the AONB; and
  2. in the case of buildings, the proposed development is sited and designed so as to integrate with the landscape, and where feasible, to enhance landscape quality;
  3. design, materials and finishes of buildings to be of high quality and to complement the design characteristics of local vernacular buildings and their settings;
  4. respect traditional boundary details, by retaining features such as hedges, walls, trees and gates;
  5. public views of key features, ridge lines and coastal headlands within the AONB are protected; and
  6. development proposals that are outside but closely interlinked with the AONB must have regard to the sensitivity of the setting and the visual relationship with the designated area.

A development proposal which clearly enhances the landscape quality and/or the distinctive character of the AONB will be supported by Council.

Development for the purposes of public access and public enjoyment of the AONB will be supported if it can be demonstrated that it will not adversely impact on the exceptional landscape qualities and distinctive character of the AONB or on its heritage assets and wildlife.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.29The Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the AONB) is a landscape of national importance that is designated by statute12 for the purpose of conserving and enhancing its natural beauty.

5.9.30That portion of the AONB which falls within the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council area (an area of some 370 square kilometres) is shown on the District Proposals Maps for information. Further information about key characteristics of the AONB within Mid and East Antrim is contained in the Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment.

5.9.31The objectives of AONB designation are to:

  • conserve or enhance the natural beauty or amenities of the area;
  • conserve wildlife, historic objects or natural phenomena within it; and
  • promote its enjoyment by the public; and provide or maintain public access to it.

These objectives also generally align with the LDP objectives, particularly Environmental Objective b) relating to the AONB.

5.9.32This policy seeks to protect, conserve and where possible enhance the scenic quality and distinctive character of the AONB, and its associated environmental and heritage assets, whilst accommodating the necessary development needs of local communities and visitors to the area, in a sustainable manner.

5.9.33The varied assets of the AONB provide opportunity for sustainable tourism growth and promoting health and wellbeing, in line with Council’s strategic priorities. Securing such benefits whilst safeguarding the intrinsic qualities of the AONB must not be compromised by inappropriate development.

5.9.34Accordingly, all new development, both buildings and infrastructure, must respect the natural beauty of the area by relating well to local landscape character. This can be achieved through careful siting and by design that seeks to integrate new development into the landscape. In assessing applications, important considerations will relate to the appropriate scale, form, massing and height of buildings. Design details relating to materials, finishes and boundary treatment will also be important and favourable consideration will be given to proposals which reflect the design characteristics of local vernacular buildings. Respecting the traditional settlement patterns and the setting of settlements within the AONB will also be important considerations in assessing applications in such areas.

5.9.35Applicants will therefore be required to minimise the visual impact of development and provide any necessary mitigation measures needed to ensure satisfactory integration into the landscape or to avoid harm to heritage assets and their settings. The protection of key views of landscape or heritage assets and how they are understood, experienced and enjoyed within the AONB will be particularly important. Proposals which individually or cumulatively prejudice the overall integrity of the AONB will be refused. Where it is possible for development proposals to enhance the AONB, for example through the provision of pathways or informal recreational facilities, Council may seek to secure the provision of suitable enhancement measures and management plans will be requested, as appropriate. Conservation, enhancement and subsequent management of important features within the AONB may be required in relation to some developments. Such enhancement however cannot be used to justify a development that would otherwise be unacceptable.

5.9.36This policy should to be read in conjunction with other relevant policies in the LDP, in particular those relating to strategic countryside designations, some of which fall within the AONB:

  • CS1 Special Countryside Areas
  • CS3 Areas of Constraint on High Structures
  • Policy MIN4 Areas of Constraint on Mineral Development

5.9.37In preparing proposals, applicants should also refer to the following documents:

  • Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment, particularly to the Landscape Character Assessment as it relates to the AONB and its setting
  • Building on Tradition13
  • The Antrim Coast and Glens Design Guide
  • The latest AONB Management Plan14

CS6 Developed Coast (Belfast Lough Shore)

The Developed Coast is designated along the Belfast Lough shoreline between Greenisland and Whitehead as shown on District Proposals Map 3.

Planning permission will only be granted for development proposals within the Developed Coast (Belfast Lough Shore) which meet the following criteria:

  1. the development proposal is of overriding regional or sub-regional economic importance so as to outweigh any potential detrimental impact on the coastal setting and /or environment; or
  2. the proposed development is for the provision of new flood defences or upgrading of existing flood defences to safeguard against coastal flooding15; or
  3. it can be demonstrated that the proposed development will not have an unacceptable effect, either directly, indirectly, or cumulatively on the coastal setting and / or environment, including any heritage asset associated with the natural or historic environment.

Proposals that comply with the above criteria will be positively supported where they assist with the following aims:

  • the creation or enhancement of public access to the coast (for example through new or extended walkways, cycleways or green infrastructure);
  • the enhancement of public enjoyment of the coast (for example through the provision or improvement of amenity areas or minor works to provide for water based recreation such as fishing or canoeing); and
  • the delivery of environmental benefit (for example through the protection of wildlife or habitat).

Where permission is granted, and where appropriate, adequate mitigation and compensatory measures must be agreed and fully secured through planning conditions or a planning agreement.

All development proposals will also be required to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP and have regard to the Marine Policy Statement and Draft Marine Plan for NI.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.38The RDS (SFG5) requires the setting of the Belfast Metropolitan Area and its environmental assets (which includes the Belfast Lough Shoreline) to be protected and enhanced. The SPPS states that along the developed coast there will be a presumption in favour of development that promotes the enhancement and regeneration of urban waterfronts.

5.9.39The Developed Coast along Belfast Lough extends from Greenisland to Whitehead. Although this shoreline is developed, it is an area of significant nature conservation and biodiversity interest, this being reflected in the range of natural environment designations pertaining to the coastal zone16. It is also of significant recreational and amenity value through facilities such as walkways, play spaces, beaches, quays and Carrickfergus Marina. This shoreline provides a distinctive setting to a number of assets associated with the historic environment of Mid and East Antrim, for example Carrickfergus Castle, Carrickfergus Conservation Area, Shore Road Area of Townscape Character, and Sea Park Historic Park Garden and Demesne.

5.9.40This policy will provide additional protection for the coastal environment, landscape/seascape and marine historic environment17, as well as the special natural and historic conservation interests of this area. The policy will not restrict appropriate development that avoids adverse impacts on these interests. It will also positively support development that respects the coastal location and setting whilst promoting public access to and enjoyment of the developed coast. Where development has the potential to have a detrimental impact on the coastal setting and/or environment, including any heritage asset associated with the natural or historic environment, adequate mitigation and compensatory measures must be agreed with Council and complied with. Full account must also be taken of any legal obligations associated with natural heritage/nature conservation designations along the Developed Coast. The Marine Policy Statement and draft Marine Plan for Northern Ireland will also be taken into account in assessing such proposals.

CS7 Local Landscape Policy Areas

Development within Local Landscape Policy Areas will only be acceptable where it does not have a significant adverse impact on their intrinsic environmental value and character, landscape quality or amenity value.

All development proposals in LLPAs will also be required to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.41Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPAs) are often designated to protect those areas within or adjoining settlements which are considered to be of greatest amenity value, landscape quality or local significance. Development pressures are often greatest in such areas, with potential for harmful impacts through inappropriate development.

5.9.42The SPPS requires the LDP, where appropriate, to designate LLPAs and bring forward local policies and guidance to maintain the intrinsic landscape, environmental value and character of such areas. At present, LLPAs are only designated in the Carrickfergus area through the draft BMAP. The Local Policies Plan will review these and consider LLPA designations elsewhere in the Borough.

5.9.43Development proposals within an LLPA should not overly dominate or detract from the locally distinctive landscape and townscape character of settlements and their setting. This policy aims to prevent over-intensive or inappropriate development in those areas identified as being of particular importance in reflecting and defining the character of the settlement. The policy also seeks to protect those features and qualities that are of intrinsic environmental value or local significance in regard to amenity or the historic environment.

5.9.44The SPPS advises that LLPAs can include the following features:

  • archaeological sites and monuments and their settings;
  • listed and other locally important buildings and their settings;
  • riverbanks and shorelines and associated public access;
  • attractive vistas, localised hills and other areas of local amenity importance; and
  • areas of local nature conservation importance including areas of woodland and important tree groups.

However, this list is not exhaustive, and in designating LLPAs through the Local Policies Plan, Council will consider any feature within or adjoining a settlement which is of intrinsic landscape, environmental, heritage or amenity value.

5.9.45Development proposals which would have a significant adverse impacton a designated LLPA will not be granted planning permission. In assessing development proposals within, or adjacent to, LLPAs, priority will be given to the protection of the key features and qualities identified in the LDP, that individually or cumulatively contribute to the overall integrity or character of the area. Proposals that seek to sensitively integrate such features into the overall design concept so as to produce a high quality development, will be positively supported. The onus is with the applicant to fully demonstrate that the proposed development will not have a significant adverse impact on these identified features or qualities of the LLPA.

5.9.46Where appropriate, conditions will be attached to planning permission to secure the protection of the key features and qualities of the LLPA.

CS8 Protection of Main River Corridors

Main River Corridors within Mid and East Antrim Borough are indicated on the District Proposals Maps and include the following rivers:

  • Lower River Bann (east bank)
  • River Maine
  • River Braid
  • River Kellswater

The extent of the Main River Corridors covered by this policy will be designated through the Local Policies Plan.

Planning permission will only be granted for a development proposal sited adjacent to a main river corridor when all of the following criteria are met:

  1. a biodiversity strip of at least 10 metres from the edge of the river is provided and accompanied with an appropriate landscape management proposal;
  2. facilitate opportunities for public access and recreation provision, where appropriate;
  3. there is no significant adverse impact on the key landscape features, natural environment, amenity value, biodiversity or the historic environment;
  4. the development would not prejudice an opportunity to provide a riverside walk or to extend an existing one; and
  5. the proposal must not compromise water quality or prejudice Policy FRD1 insofar as it seeks to manage development in flood plains.

All development proposals will also be required to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Justification and Amplification

5.9.47This policy seeks to protect, conserve and enhance river corridors as significant environmental assets, in ways which bring benefits to local communities, in line with our Community Plan and LDP objectives.

5.9.48The four designated river corridors have been identified as being important landscape features that are also significant for their nature conservation interests, biodiversity, recreational and amenity value. They form a vital and integral part of the green / blue infrastructure network by connecting open spaces within settlements and often beyond the urban edge, to potentially link with nearby settlements.

5.9.49The policy applies to the rivers, adjoining open space and other predominantly open land that together form the strategically important green corridors that run through the heart of our urban areas. This policy also applies to sections of the river corridors that extend beyond the urban areas (as defined by settlement boundaries). Along with the settlement boundaries, the full extent of river corridors to which this policy applies will be defined at Local Policies Plan stage.

Access and recreational routes

5.9.50All new developments adjacent to these areas should seek where possible to enhance public access to and along the river corridors. Where appropriate this should provide a direct, safe and clear access for pedestrians and cyclists and at intervals along the river corridor provide access points across the river channel. Ecological protection and public access provision need to be carefully balanced. Access may be restricted in places in the interests of ecology.

Biodiversity

5.9.51River corridors provide an important biodiversity resource and new developments should preserve or enhance local biodiversity by including the following measures:

  • provide a biodiversity strip of at least 10 metres from the edge of the river accompanied with an appropriate landscape management proposal;
  • provide appropriate landscaping that utilises native species of trees and shrubs;
  • establish less disturbed, low maintenance, riverside areas;
  • provide habitat for a range of species that is appropriate to the area, including shade and shelter;
  • ensure appropriate lighting is used to avoid a negative impact on species;
  • enhance green networks that link sites;
  • manage and seek to eradicate invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed; and
  • employ biodiversity measures and procedures to reduce the risk of introducing or spreading invasive non-native species (and other harmful organisms such as diseases) in the wild.
Historic and Cultural Environment

5.9.52Given that many settlements in Mid and East Antrim originated because of the main river corridors they are of significance to the historical and cultural evolution of the Borough. Development proposals within or adjoining these river corridors should therefore ensure that archaeological remains, historic buildings and historic landscapes and their settings are protected, conserved and where possible enhanced.

Landscape

5.9.53Development proposals should take into account the landscape character context for each of the river corridors as set out in the Landscape Character Assessment. Landscaping proposals within or adjacent to a main river corridor should only use appropriate native species and should be designed in such a way to be low maintenance.

Floodplain

5.9.54Fringes of land adjacent to watercourses will often perform a primary function of providing for the storage and conveyance of flood-water during times of flood. All development proposals will need to ensure that the capacity of the flood plain to store and carry flood water is not hindered, as this could result in increased flooding problems downstream, (refer to Policy FRD1 Development within Floodplains for further information).

Water Quality and Pollution Prevention

5.9.55The ecosystem of the river depends on good water quality. Development proposals therefore need to consider pollution prevention as a priority measure which must be addressed from the beginning of the development process. Any proposed development that may create potential for pollution will not be granted planning permission unless the threat can be addressed effectively through appropriate planning conditions and agreed mitigation measures.

  • 8 - For the purposes of this policy a minor extension will be deemed as being an increase in the overall volume of no more than 30% of the size of the original dwelling.
  • 9 - Minor Operations for the purposes of this policy are as defined under Part 3 of The Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.
  • 10 - Infrastructure can include roads, pathways, cycle ways, car parks, telecommunication and energy infrastructure, flood defences and agricultural infrastructure.
  • 11 - For the purposes of this policy ‘curtilage’ will mean the immediate, usually defined and enclosed area surrounding an existing or former dwelling house.
  • 12 - Designated as an AONB in 1988 under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985.
  • 13 - https://www.planningni.gov.uk/building_on_tradition__amended_.compressed.pdf
  • 14 - http://ccght.org/publications/Management_Plan/Antrim_Coast_&_Glens_AONB_Management_Plan-Action_Plan.pdf
  • 15 - Flood protection or management measures involving new or upgrading of flood defences or flood compensation storage works will not be acceptable unless carried out by DfI Rivers or another statutory body.
  • 16 - Refer to Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment for further information.
  • 17 - For further information relating to Marine Heritage refer to https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/marine-historic-environment

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