Introduction

7.1.1Our LDP will seek to deliver sustainable economic development through supportive planning policies, zoning land for development, identifying and protecting development opportunities, and integrating employment generation with essential supporting provision in terms of housing and infrastructure.

7.1.2Given the decline of large scale manufacturing generally, and in particular within our Borough, the need to grow small business enterprise in key growth sectors must be an economic priority. Whilst strong business survival rates in our Borough is an indication of resilience, there is still a low business birth rate. Small business growth is also necessary to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and is therefore likely to be part of the broader solution of enhancing skills in local people, so as to take advantage of future opportunities.

7.1.3Our Borough is under represented in a number of sectors including information and communications; financial and insurance activities; professional, scientific and technical; and business administration and support services. Our Integrated Economic Development Strategy ‘Amplify’ considers these sectors to have strong potential to increase Gross Value Added (GVA) and employment within our Borough. We will seek to capitalise on the locational opportunities, presented by the Borough’s close proximity to both Belfast and the International Airport, in order to attract more investment in these sectors.

7.1.4Recently, there has been pressure to utilise land zoned for economic development for alternative non-industrial/business uses, for example leisure and recreation facilities. This can be difficult to resist because of the low take-up of land by the target uses. Many such uses seek locations in industrial estates because of the availability of large buildings with lower rates tariffs than town centres, and with large areas of car parking. However, this can deplete the reserve of economic development land and may also give rise to incompatibility issues with established industrial enterprises.

7.1.5The RDS and the SPPS both highlight the importance of economic development land as a valuable resource which should be protected from other forms of development to ensure a sufficient ongoing supply of suitable land and buildings which are well located and suited to such purposes. The SPPS outlines six regional strategic objectives for economic development (para 6.82) and highlights that the LDP should positively and proactively encourage economic growth.

7.1.6In line with the regional direction, our LDP will specify the type or range of economic development uses that will be acceptable within zoned sites or broader areas of economic activity such as land currently or last used for economic development uses. In accordance with the SPPS, previously developed land within settlements last used for economic development will normally be identified and protected for such use, where it remains suitable.

Policy Aims

7.1.7The LDP strategic approach to economic development is set out in our policy aims below. These fully embrace the above-mentioned regional strategic objectives and guidelines for LDPs set out in the SPPS.

  • To facilitate the economic development needs of the Borough in ways consistent with protection of the environment and the principles of sustainable development;
  • To safeguard land required for economic development use;
  • To support the re-use of previously developed industrial/business sites and buildings for economic development use; and
  • To protect established/approved economic development uses from incompatible development.

Implementation

7.1.8The policy aims will be delivered primarily though the strategic policies set out in the remainder of this section. The Local Policies Plan will also zone land for specific economic development uses, and identify land currently or last used for economic development purposes.

Policy ECD1 Economic Development in Settlements

Towns
Business Uses

A development proposal for a Class B1 Business use will be permitted within a town centre and in other locations specified for such in the LDP.

Elsewhere within towns, such proposals will only be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that all the following criteria are met:

  1. there is no suitable site within the town centre, or at the edge of a town centre, or in other locations specified for such use in the LDP;
  2. it is a firm rather than a speculative proposal; and
  3. the proposal would make a substantial contribution to the economy of the town.
Industrial Uses

A development proposal for an Industrial use will be permitted on land zoned for such purposes in the LDP, or in an existing industrial area, provided it is of a scale, nature and form appropriate to the location. Elsewhere within towns, such proposals will be determined on their individual merits.

Villages and Small Settlements

A development proposal for either business or industry use in lower tier settlements in the settlement hierarchy will be permitted where all the following criteria are met:

  1. the proposal is commensurate with the LDP Spatial Growth Strategy;
  2. the nature, scale and form/design of the proposal is appropriate to the character of the settlement; and
  3. the proposal is compatible with adjacent and nearby land uses.

All new proposals and those seeking to extend an existing economic development use or premises within settlements will also be required to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Justification and Amplification

7.1.9The LDP seeks to focus employment and services within the main towns of the Borough, as these are highlighted by the RDS and SPPS as the most sustainable locations. The objective is to capitalise on development opportunities provided by the concentration of people and goods combined with available infrastructure and the clustering of a range of business services, including the professional, technical and financial services essential to economic development.

7.1.10Business uses should be located primarily within town centres, as these are hubs enabling good accessibility by various modes of transport. Business uses can also benefit the town centre through increased footfall and consumer spending, and utilising vacant properties within the town centre. Where there is no town centre boundary defined within a town, new business will be directed to within the built up footprint. For business use proposals outside the town centre, Council will require evidence to be submitted with the application showing how the proposal meets all the criteria. In relation to the requirement for a firm proposal, evidence should include tenancy arrangements. Consideration may be given to permitting part-speculative developments if the majority of the proposal is seen to be a firm proposal as this may encourage other business tenants into the area.

7.1.11It is recognised that some businesses such as IT and communications are closely related to high technology knowledge-driven light industrial uses, and that there are benefits in grouping such uses in industrial areas or business parks. According, the policy provides for this option.

7.1.12In towns, industry should be located on land zoned for such purposes. The reuse of land and buildings within existing or former industrial areas for appropriate economic development uses will be favourably considered, subject to meeting the General Policy. The LDP will ensure an ample supply of land is available within main towns for economic development purposes. A range and choice of suitable sites in terms of size and location will be available to promote flexibility and provide for the future demands of industrial, business, storage and distribution enterprises. The LDP may, through key site requirements, restrict or promote specific economic development uses on zoned sites or broader areas of economic development within towns where there are good planning reasons for doing so. Retailing or commercial leisure development will not be permitted on land zoned for economic development uses.

7.1.13Land will not be zoned for economic development purposes in our small towns, villages or small settlements, both in the interests of flexibility and due to our small towns all being located in close proximity to main towns where we aim to focus economic development growth. In these lower tier settlements, favourable consideration will be given to small scale proposals that will not compromise the LDP Spatial Growth Strategy and provided the proposal is of a scale, nature and design appropriate to the character of the settlement.

Policy ECD2 Retention of Economic Development Land

Zoned Land

A development proposal that would result in the loss of land zoned for economic development to other uses will not be permitted, unless the land has been substantially developed for alternative uses.

Unless otherwise specified through Key Site Requirements in the adopted Local Policies Plan, an exception will be permitted for the development of a sui generis employment use where the applicant has demonstrated that all the following criteria are met:

  1. the proposal is compatible with the predominant economic development use;
  2. it is of a scale, nature and form appropriate to the location; and
  3. the proposal will not lead to a significant diminution of the economic development land resource in the town or the Borough generally.

Retailing or commercial leisure development will not be permitted except where justified as acceptable ancillary development.

Unzoned land in Settlements

A development proposal that would result in the loss of land currently or last used for economic development to other uses will only be permitted where the applicant can demonstrate that one or more of the following criteria are met:

  1. the proposal is a specific mixed-use regeneration initiative which will bring substantial community, environmental or economic benefits that outweigh the loss of land for economic development use; or
  2. the proposal is for a compatible sui generis use of a scale, nature and form appropriate to the location; or
  3. the site is unsuitable for modern economic development purposes and there is no market interest in the site following one year of continuous active marketing.

Justification and Amplification

7.1.14It is important that economic development land which is in sustainable locations and suited to such purposes is safeguarded from being lost to other forms of development. Therefore, only exceptionally will the Council consider the loss of such land and buildings to other uses.

7.1.15This policy seeks to protect such land in our main towns so that there is an ample supply of suitable land available to meet economic development needs in the Borough over the Plan period and beyond. The retention of economic development land in our main towns not only makes a substantial contribution to the renewal and revitalisation of those towns, but can also provide employment opportunities accessible to large sections of the urban population and the rural hinterland.

7.1.16The existence of redundant business premises and derelict industrial land can be an important resource for the creation of new job opportunities particularly small businesses. This also can help reduce the demand for greenfield sites. The Council will therefore seek to promote the re-use of such land and buildings for economic development uses.

7.1.17Unless otherwise specified through Key Site Requirements for specific zonings in the adopted Local Policies Plan, planning permission will not be granted for proposals that would result in the loss of land zoned for economic development use to other uses. An exception may be made for a proposal for a sui generis employment use compatible with the existing or proposed economic development use e.g. a builders’ supplies merchant or a waste management facility, provided a sufficient supply of land for economic development use remains in that locality and across the Borough generally.

7.1.18In addition, the retention of unzoned sites or premises within settlements currently or last used for economic development purposes will help to support the diversity of the local economy. Therefore, planning permission will not normally be granted for the change of use, or the redevelopment for other uses, except in the circumstances outlined in the policy above. The onus will be on the applicant to submit sufficient information with the application to demonstrate that the proposal meets one or more of the three specified criteria.

Policy ECD3 Development incompatible with Economic Development Uses

A development proposal in the vicinity of an existing/operating or approved economic development use will not be permitted where it would be incompatible with or would prejudice the current or future operations of that economic development use.

Justification and Amplification

7.1.19Some proposed developments may be incompatible with nearby economic development enterprises, either already operating or approved. For example, industrial operations giving rise to emissions of dust or fumes may be incompatible with existing enterprises requiring a particularly clean and contaminant free environment (such as Pharmaceuticals and medical products, food processing, or research and development). In such cases, special attention will be paid to the needs of the existing industry for a clean/sterile environment in determining the proposal.

7.1.20In other cases, new residential development may be incompatible in proximity to an existing economic development use, and may prejudice the continued existence of such use, even when all reasonable remedial measures have been taken to mitigate potentially harmful impacts. Where this is clearly demonstrated, the Council will refuse planning permission for new development in order to avoid jeopardising employment in the existing enterprise.

Policy ECD4 Economic Development in the Countryside

A proposal for economic development in the countryside will be permitted where it meets the General Policy and the specific criteria for each of the circumstances set out below where this policy provides opportunity for rural enterprise:

  1. Expansion of an established economic development use in the countryside

    A proposal for the expansion of an established economic development use in the countryside will be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that all the following criteria are met:

    Exceptionally, expansion beyond the existing curtilage may be acceptable where the applicant has demonstrated that relocation of the enterprise is not possible for particular operational or employment reasons and the proposal would make a significant contribution to the local economy.

    1. there is no major increase in the site area of the enterprise; and

    2. involves the reuse or extension of existing buildings on site, unless the applicant has demonstrated that this is not possible. In that case, new buildings may be approved provided they are in proportion to the existing building(s) and will integrate as part of the overall development.

  2. Redevelopment of an established economic development use in the countryside

    A proposal for the redevelopment of an established economic development use in the countryside for economic development purposes (or an appropriate sui generis employment use) will be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that both the following criteria are met:

    1. there is only a proportionate increase in the site area; and

    2. relative to the existing development, the proposed redevelopment scheme must demonstrate a planning gain over the site as a whole in regard to environmental and visual impact on the surrounding countryside.

  3. Major Industrial Development in the Countryside

    A major industrial proposal which makes a significant contribution to the regional economy will be permitted in the countryside where the applicant has demonstrated that the proposal due to its size or site specific requirements needs a countryside location. An edge of settlement location will be favoured over a location elsewhere in the rural area.

  4. Small Rural Start-up Projects

    A firm proposal to develop a small community enterprise centre or a small rural start-up industrial enterprise on land outside a village or small settlement will be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that all the following criteria are met:

    Where an economic development proposal is permitted under this policy, any subsequent proposal should preferably be sited to cluster or visually link to this, subject to meeting the General Policy.

    1. there is an unmet need;

    2. there is no suitable site within the settlement;

    3. the proposal would benefit the local economy or contribute to community regeneration; and

    4. the development is clearly associated with the settlement, but will not dominate it, adversely affect landscape setting or otherwise contribute to urban sprawl. Preference will be given to a site adjacent to the settlement limit, or reusing a building on a degraded/derelict site close to the settlement limit.

  5. Farm/Forestry Diversification

    A proposal for farm or forestry diversification will be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that both of the following criteria are met:

    Proposals will only be acceptable where they involve the re-use or adaptation of existing farm buildings.

    Exceptionally, a new building may be permitted where there is no existing building available to accommodate the proposed use, either because they are essential for the maintenance of the existing farm enterprise, are clearly unsuitable for adaptation and re-use or cannot be adapted to meeting the requirements of other statutory agencies.

    Where a new building is justified, it should be satisfactorily integrated with an existing group of buildings.

    1. the farm or forestry business is currently active and has been active and established for the last six years; and

    2. it is to be run in conjunction with the agricultural operations on the farm.

  6. Agricultural and Forestry Development

    A proposal for development on an active and established farm or forestry business will be permitted where the applicant has demonstrated that the following criteria are met:

    1. the farm or forestry business is currently active and has been active and established for the last six years; and

    2. it is necessary for the efficient use of the farm or forestry business.

    In cases where a new building is proposed the applicant must demonstrate:

    1. there are no existing buildings on the farm or forestry business that can be used; and

    2. the proposal is sited beside established buildings on the farm or forestry business. Exceptionally an alternative siting away from established buildings on the farm or forestry business may be acceptable where the applicant has demonstrated there are verifiable site specific health and safety reasons,

    A proposal for intensive farming or animal husbandry will be required to demonstrate that it will not result in any significant adverse environmental impact, including in relation to ammonia emissions.

  7. The Conversion and Re-use of an Existing Building

    A proposal for the conversion and re-use of an existing building for economic development use will be assessed under Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building.

    Proposals for new offices, call centres, or storage and distribution will not be permitted unless ancillary to the main use. In addition, retailing (unless acceptable under Policy RET4 Rural Shops and Roadside Facilities) and commercial leisure uses will not be permitted in the countryside.

Justification and Amplification

7.1.21The Council is committed to facilitating opportunities for economic development and diversification in the countryside while maintaining, and where possible, enhancing the quality of the rural environment for local people and visitors. A pleasant and attractive countryside is central to the Borough’s economic prosperity and tourism offering. The circumstances provide for in this policy offer the greatest scope for sustainable economic development in the countryside.

Expansion of an established economic development use in the countryside

7.1.22There are many established industrial and business enterprises located throughout the Borough’s rural area. Whilst expansion of these enterprises may promote job creation, this also has the potential to radically change the nature of the enterprise and its impact on the local rural area. The policy seeks to strike a reasonable balance by allowing for expansion of enterprises while minimising the potential for harmful impacts.

Redevelopment of an established economic development use in the countryside

7.1.23This policy seeks to offer the opportunity for some redundant or poor quality industrial sites in the rural area to be appropriately redeveloped to modern standards with the aim of promoting job creation and securing environmental improvement/benefits. The overall impact of replacement buildings should not be greater than that of the existing buildings to be replaced.

Major Industrial Development in the Countryside

7.1.24The Council will seek to encourage major industrial development to locate in the Borough’s main towns. This policy allows for an exception to this where a proposal which makes a significant contribution to the regional economy requires a countryside location. The applicant must demonstrate both of these aspects to the Council’s satisfaction. The latter test will require evidence of the exploration of alternative sites in urban areas, and full consideration of all environmental impacts. Existing enterprises in an urban area will not be permitted to relocate to the countryside.

Small Rural Start-Up Projects

7.1.25This policy seeks to facilitate the development of new small scale industrial start-up enterprises in the countryside for the benefit of the rural economy and community. It allows for a flexible approach to ensure adequate provision is made where a firm proposal exists for a small rural enterprise that is associated with a village or smaller rural settlement but cannot be accommodated within that settlement. The applicant will be required to demonstrate the need for, and the economic benefits of, the proposal. If permitted, the economic development uses considered appropriate for the site will be conditioned.

Farm Diversification

7.1.26The Council is committed to supporting farm diversification proposals and enterprises where they are compatible with broader planning objectives for the countryside and elsewhere. This policy aims to promote forms of diversification that are sustainable in the countryside, including farm related small business enterprises, agri-food or tourism schemes. It is important that the countryside is not spoilt by the unfettered development of urban uses. Diversification proposals, therefore, should be of a scale and nature appropriate for the location and be capable of satisfactory integration into the rural landscape. Applications for proposals more suitable to the urban area or existing urban-based enterprises seeking relocation to the countryside will not be acceptable. Where a new building is proposed, the applicant will be required to provide sufficient information to satisfactorily demonstrate why existing buildings cannot be used.

7.1.27For the purposes of this policy, a farm business is one that demonstrates that it enjoys the decision-making power, benefits and financial risks in relation to the agricultural activity25 on the land. One of the clearest ways of demonstrating that a farm business is currently active is firstly by providing an active DAERA Category 1 Business ID Number, and secondly by demonstrating receipt of Single Farm Payment or payment from the Basic Payment Scheme administered by DAERA. Where applicants do not have a Category 1 Business ID Number and have not received payment through DAERA, then the applicant must provide evidence of an active farm business. Examples of evidence that may be required include:

  • Accounts for the farming business prepared by a qualified accountant.
  • Receipts relating to outputs and inputs.
  • Bank statements showing income/expenditure relating to receipts.
  • Evidence demonstrating that they are personally and substantially involved in the agricultural activity as opposed to simply renting land in conacre and how this can be reconciled with other documentary evidence in relation to the farm business.

Additional evidence may also be required. In all cases such evidence must cover a minimum of the last six years from the date of the application.

Agricultural and Forestry Development

7.1.28This policy seeks to support the ever-changing operational needs of farm or forestry businesses. The applicant will be required to demonstrate that the proposal is necessary for the efficient use of the farm or forestry business. Where a new building is proposed, the applicant will also be required to satisfactorily demonstrate why existing buildings cannot be used. Where the new building is proposed away from the existing farm buildings, the applicant should submit verifiable evidence of site specific health and safety reasons why this is needed, for example, bio-security risks to flock and feed associated with intensive livestock farming such as poultry breeding or rearing. In addition, an applicant for a proposal for intensive livestock farming or animal husbandry will have to demonstrate that it will not result in any significant adverse environmental impact, including in relation to ammonia emissions.

The Conversion and Re-use of an Existing Building

7.1.29This policy seeks to facilitate the potential reuse of a locally important building in the countryside for appropriate economic development use. Applicants should refer to Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building for criteria to be met. Development proposals relating to offices, call centres, or storage and distribution uses will be more tightly controlled in the countryside than other economic development uses, as they are considered to be more difficult to absorb into the countryside without detrimental impact on rural amenity.

  • 24 - For the purposes of these policies, Economic Development Uses are ‘Part B Industrial and Business Uses’ as defined by The Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.
  • 25 - For the purposes of this policy, agricultural activity is as defined by Article 4 of the European Council Regulations (EC) No. 1307/2013.

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