Introduction

8.1.1Creating sustainable communities is at the heart of both regional planning policy and Council’s strategic plans. The provision of a range of well-designed house types and sizes and achieving a balance between affordable houses to rent, other types of tenure and market housing for sale are all considered as important factors in building sustainable communities. The LDP has an important role to perform by supporting the delivery of this mix of homes to meet the full range of housing needs and creating places that are safe, inclusive, well planned and where people want to live, work and play. This should be in locations that benefit from ease of access to public transport, active travel routes, employment and core services and in a manner that is sensitive to the environment and contributes to a high quality of life.

8.1.2The SPPS sets out four broad outputs that the LDP Housing Strategy and accompanying polices and proposals should deliver within settlements, tailored to the specific circumstances of the plan area. These are sustainable forms of development, good design, increased housing density without town cramming and balanced communities.

Policy Aims

8.1.3Alongside the General Policy, the operational strategic subject policies that will help to deliver each output are listed under the policy aims below.

  • To promote sustainable forms of development(Refer to Part 1: Strategic Housing Allocation and Management of Housing Supply)
    • Policy SGS3 Strategic Allocation of Housing to Settlements
    • Policy SGS4 Protection of Zoned Housing Land
    • Policy SGS5 Management of Housing Supply
  • To secure good design and increased housing density without town cramming
    Operational Policies
    • Policy HOU1 Quality in New Residential Development in Settlements
    • Policy HOU2 The Conversion or Change of Use of Existing Buildings to Flats or Apartments
    • Policy HOU3 Residential Extensions and Alterations (also applies to proposals in the countryside)
    • Policy HOU4Protected Town Centre Housing Areas
  • To nurture the development of balanced communities
    Operational Policies
    • Policy HOU5 Affordable Housing in Settlements
    • Policy HOU6 Housing Mix (Unit Types and Sizes)
    • Policy HOU7 Adaptable and Accessible Accommodation (also applies to proposals in the countryside)
    • Policy HOU8 Travellers Accommodation (also partly applies to proposals in the countryside)

8.1.4The overall aim of the SPPS in regard to the countryside is to manage development in a manner which strikes a balance between protection of the environment from inappropriate development, while supporting and sustaining rural communities consistent with the RDS. It requires the LDP to bring forward a strategy for sustainable development in the countryside underpinned by appropriate policies for housing and other forms of development. Broadly, the policy approach expressed by the SPPS is to cluster, consolidate, and group new development with existing established buildings and promote the re-use of previously used buildings.

Policy Aim

8.1.5Alongside the General Policy, the operational strategic subject policies that will help to deliver sustainable residential development in the countryside in accordance with the SPPS are listed under the policy aim below.

  • To manage residential development in the countryside in order to secure a sustainable balance between protecting the environment from inappropriate development while supporting and sustaining rural communities.
    Operational policies
    • Policy HOU9 Replacement Dwelling
    • Policy HOU10 Dwelling on a Farm Business
    • Policy HOU11 Dwelling for Non-agricultural Business Enterprise
    • Policy HOU12 New Dwelling in Existing Clusters
    • Policy HOU13 Ribbon/Infill Development
    • Policy HOU14 Personal and Domestic Circumstances
    • Policy HOU 15 Residential Caravans and Mobile Homes
    • Policy HOU16 Affordable Housing in the Countryside
    • For proposals involving the conversion and reuse of existing buildings in the countryside see Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building

Housing in Settlements

Sustainable forms of development

8.1.6The Strategic Housing Allocation is the primary means by which the LDP seeks to manage housing growth to achieve sustainable patterns of residential development across the Borough. The Strategic Housing Allocation is set out in Part 1 of the draft Plan Strategy. This is accompanied by SGS4 Protection of Zoned Housing Land which seeks to ensure that land allocated for housing through the Local Policies Plan remains protected for that purpose. A further consideration in managing housing growth in a sustainable way includes the adoption of a sequential approach, as advocated by the SPPS, for the release of housing land within a settlement. Again, this is addressed in Part 1 of the draft Plan Strategy, through SGS5 Management of Housing Supply. Other aspects of promoting sustainable development through housing are related more to the form of housing development, rather than its geographical allocation. These aspects are addressed through the various operational policies set out in this section, particularly those relevant to good design and increased housing density without town cramming.

Good design and increased housing density without town cramming

8.1.7Good design ensures attractive, usable, durable and adaptable places and is a key element in achieving sustainable development. The RDS promotes imaginative and innovative design which respects the character of an area, local tradition and human scale in order to create attractive surroundings and safe places to live. The SPPS requires the LDP to bring forward policy or guidance for achieving quality in residential developments. Both documents advocate increased housing density in towns to achieve a more sustainable pattern of development. Sustainable benefits likely to accrue from this approach include compact urban form, reduced consumption of greenfield sites, better integration of housing with transport and making best use of existing services and sources of employment.

8.1.8However, increased housing density in established residential areas, must ensure that local character, environmental quality and amenity are not significantly eroded and that the proposed density, together with the form, scale, massing and layout of the new development is appropriate to the local context.

8.1.9The following policies reflect the regional policy approach and seek to deliver quality, sustainable and safe new residential developments and appropriate conversions and residential extensions.

Policy HOU1 Quality in New Residential Development in Settlements

Planning permission will only be granted for new residential development where it is demonstrated that the proposal will create a high quality, sustainable and safe residential environment. The design and layout of residential development should be based on an overall design concept that draws upon the positive aspects of the character and appearance of the surrounding area, provides adequate public and private open space and ensures good connectivity with existing local facilities and amenities. Where a need is identified adequate provision should be made for necessary local neighbourhood facilities to be provided by the developer as an integral part of the development.

All proposals for residential development are required to submit a Design Concept Statement or a Concept Master Plan. A Concept Master Plan will be required for developments of 200 dwellings or more or for the development, in part or full, of sites of 10 hectares or more zoned for housing in the Local Development Plan or residential development on any other site of 10 hectares or more. In the case of proposals for the partial development of a site zoned for housing the Concept Master Plan will be expected to demonstrate how the comprehensive planning of the entire zoned area is to be undertaken. Any proposal for residential development that would result in unsatisfactory piecemeal development will not be permitted, even on land identified for residential use in the Local Development Plan.

In established residential areas (see Appendix E), with the exception of such areas in main towns that are located adjacent to main public transport nodes or within or closely associated with the town centre, planning permission will only be granted for the redevelopment of existing buildings, or the infilling of vacant sites (including extended garden areas) to accommodate new housing where the proposed density is not significantly higher than that found in the established residential areas and the pattern of development is in keeping with the overall character and environmental quality of the established residential area. All dwelling units and apartments in established residential areas should be built to a size not less than those set out in Appendix F and should not result in unacceptable damage to the residential amenity of these areas.

All proposals for residential development will be expected to meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP. In addition, the guidance set out in Appendix D and in the ‘Creating Places’ design guide, alongside the principles outlined in ‘Living Places – An Urban Stewardship and Design Guide’ will be taken into account when assessing proposals. Any proposal for residential development which fails to produce an appropriate quality of design will not be permitted, even on land identified for residential use in the Local Development Plan.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.10This policy applies to all proposals for new residential development in settlements.

8.1.11Council wishes to secure a high quality of design, layout and landscaping in all new residential development across the Borough to deliver attractive, safe and sustainable residential environments. These matters are considered as important as the suitability of the site in deciding whether to grant planning permission.

8.1.12Quality design comes from achieving a balanced response to all the factors influencing a scheme. It will require housing layouts with individuality and which draw on the positive elements of the local context by making the most of a site’s characteristics and its landscape or townscape setting. Quality design also entails variety and contrast within developments, in layout,in boundaries and planting, and in adapting the buildings and spaces around them, to enhance local distinctiveness. It requires attention to detail and consideration of all matters which contribute to a sense of place, such as the protection and integration of natural and historic environment features and local landmarks. Quality design must also address the needs of residents, in particular those of children and the elderly (see Policy HOU7Adaptable and Accessible Homes and Policy HOU6 Housing Mix (Unit Types and Sizes). It encourages pedestrian and cycle movements, makes provision for increased use of public transport, promotes biodiversity and encourages wildlife, integrates open space and, where necessary connects to or accommodates local neighbourhood facilities. Policy OSL4 Public Open Space in New Residential Development sets out the amount of public open space required within residential developments including the provision of children’s play spaces. Where possible, developments should include open space linkages to designated regional or community greenways in accordance with Policy OSL2 Greenways.

8.1.13The quality of a development relies not only on the design of its functional parts, but also the totality of what is sought in terms of its vision or overall character. It is therefore important that new residential development is based on a clear design concept that seeks to deliver on this vision. Ideally design concepts should be based on a network of spaces rather than a hierarchy of roads. This will help ensure the creation of surroundings with an attractive human scale and a distinctive overall sense of place.

8.1.14A Design Concept Statement is necessary to demonstrate how the proposed scheme has taken account of the main features of the site and its context and how it will meet the criteria set out in the General Policy, thereby contributing to the promotion of a quality and sustainable residential environment. The statement should outline in writing the overall design concept and objectives for the site and include an indicative concept plan, based on the appraisal of the site and its context. The amount of information and level of detail required will depend on the nature, scale and location of the proposed development. It should be noted that design and access statements (D&AS) are a current requirement under planning legislation that should accompany certain applications. In relation to residential development this includes an application which is a major development (i.e. comprises 50 units or more; or the area of the site is or exceeds 2 hectares) or where one or more dwelling houses are located within a designated area. Where Council grants outline planning permission for residential development based on indicative plans, a condition will be imposed requiring that any reserved matters application be based broadly on these plans. Where a Concept Master Plan is required, this will need to indicate in graphic form a scheme for the comprehensive development of the whole area, and include a written statement, detailed appraisals, sketches, plans and other illustrative materials. The Concept Master Plan should also clearly demonstrate how it is intended to implement the scheme.

8.1.15The comprehensive planning of new or extended housing areas is important to avoid piecemeal development that may result in the undesirable fragmentation of a new neighbourhood and fail to secure the proper phasing of development with associated infrastructure and facilities. Council would encourage land pooling by owners and developers to facilitate the comprehensive development of residential sites. Where this cannot be achieved, and comprehensive development of the site would be prejudiced, the application will be refused.

8.1.16Council will not permit proposals for new housing development in established residential areas where these would result in unacceptable damage to the local character, environmental quality or residential amenity of these areas. However, in recognition of the desirability of promoting increased density housing in appropriate locations, suitably designed higher density proposals in established residential areas in the following locations within main towns may be acceptable: i) adjacent to main public transportation nodes and ii) in designated town centres or areas closely associated with them.

8.1.17In Conservation Areas and Areas of Townscape Character housing proposals will be required to maintain or enhance the distinctive character and appearance of such areas in accordance with Policy HE6 Conservation Areas and Policy HE7 Areas of Townscape Character.

8.1.18The acceptability of proposals will depend on the particular circumstances of the site and its surroundings and decisions will be informed by the guidance provided in Appendix D and in the ‘Creating Places’ design guide, alongside the principles outlined in ‘Living Places – An Urban Stewardship and Design Guide’.

Policy HOU2 The Conversion or Change of Use of Existing Buildings to Flats or Apartments

The conversion or change of use of existing buildings to flats or apartments (including those for multiple occupancy30) will be permitted where Policy HOU1 Quality in New Residential Development in Settlements, and all the additional criteria set out below are met:

  1. the proposal maintains or enhances the form, character and architectural features, design and setting of the existing building;
  2. the original property is greater than 150 square metres gross internal floorspace in the case of sub-division of an existing dwelling;
  3. all flats or apartments are self contained (i.e. having separate bathroom, w.c. and kitchen available for use only by the occupiers);
  4. the development does not contain any flat or apartment which is wholly in the rear of the property and without access to the public street;
  5. adequate refuse storage space (large enough to allow for the separation of recyclable waste) is provided; and
  6. proposals above shops and other business premises do not prejudice the operations of any commercial business below.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.19The conversion and reuse of existing buildings for residential use is often a more sustainable form of development than new build or redevelopment, as it makes use of existing materials and services. Additional benefit is likely to be gained where the original building is established in a sustainable location, such as a town centre. This policy therefore supports initiatives such as ‘Living Over the Shop’ which can provide a useful source of affordable rented housing, contribute to the vitality and viability of town centres and reduce dependency upon the private car. However, it is important to ensure that where properties are converted, there is no adverse effect on the local character, environmental quality or residential amenity of the surrounding area and they provide adequate amenity for any future occupiers. For example, as a result of increased density, overlooking, increased traffic congestion, and the loss of family sized housing.

8.1.20To ensure that individual dwellings are appropriate for conversion, a minimum size limit is placed on dwellings which will be permitted for conversion to flats or apartments. At some locations within designated town centres and sites adjacent to main public transportation nodes, the conversion of existing buildings to flats or apartments may be appropriate where an existing property is less than 150m² gross internal floorspace. In such cases a more flexible approach to the floorspace requirement in the policy may be applied.

8.1.21The usual residential design requirements such as layout, scale, massing and amenity should be carefully considered to ensure a quality residential environment is achieved when converting and/or sub dividing an existing building. Adequate amenity space should be provided in accordance with the ‘Creating Places’ design guide (DOE/DRD 2000). Appropriate refuse and recycling storage areas should be designed as an integral element of the development accessible to all residents and screened from amenity space and the public realm to safeguard amenity. Proposals involving extensions and alterations are required to be consistent with Policy HOU3 Residential Extensions and Alterations.

8.1.22Where a proposal involves the conversion or subdivision over an existing commercial business the ground floor use should be compatible in terms of providing a suitable living environment for the residents above. Equally, the residential use should not disrupt the functions of the ground floor business to protect the economic vibrancy of the area. For such proposals above commercial businesses in town centres, a flexible approach will be applied to car parking provision having regard to the circumstances of each case.

Policy HOU3 Residential Extensions and Alterations

Planning permission will be granted for a proposal to extend or alter a residential property where all of the following criteria are met:

  1. the scale, massing, design and external materials of the proposal are sympathetic with the built form and appearance of the existing property and will not detract from the appearance and character of the surrounding area;
  2. the proposal does not unduly affect the privacy or amenity of neighbouring residents;
  3. the proposal will not cause the unacceptable loss of, or damage to, trees or other landscape features which contribute significantly to local environmental quality; and
  4. sufficient space remains within the curtilage of the property for recreational and domestic purposes including the parking and manoeuvring of vehicles.

The guidance set out in Appendix G will be taken into account when assessing proposals against the above criteria.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.23This policy applies to all dwelling houses, flats or apartments throughout the Borough, including a dwelling located in the countryside.

8.1.24In line with the SPPS, the LDP seeks to support good design and it is an important material consideration in the assessment of all applications, including proposals for residential extensions and alterations. Good design will help promote sustainable development and improve the quality of the existing environment.

8.1.25A proposal to extend or alter a residential property can have a significant impact on the character and appearance of the local environment. Even small-scale changes can, by virtue of their cumulative impact over a period of time, significantly erode the character of a street, village or rural setting. An extension or alteration should be in scale with existing and adjoining buildings. The height, width and general size of an extension should generally be smaller than the existing dwelling and subordinate or integrated so as not to dominate the host building. It is important that an extension fits in with its surroundings by not only complementing the dwelling but also the street scene that it sits within. The overall aim is to encourage high quality design solutions irrespective of whether the approach followed seeks to mirror the style of the existing property or adopts a contemporary modern design approach.

8.1.26It is important that the amenity of all residents is protected from ‘unneighbourly’ extensions as these can cause problems through overshadowing/loss of light, dominance and loss of privacy. The extent to which potential problems may arise is usually dependent upon the separation distance, height, depth, mass and location of an extension and window positions.

8.1.27Care should be taken to ensure that proposals to extend do not decrease the amount of private open space to a level that cannot accommodate the normal domestic activities such as bin storage, clothes drying, sitting out and playspace. In considering the effect of an extension on private amenity space, Council will take into account the guidelines in Creating Places and the prevailing standard of private amenity space in the local area. Proposals which involve the loss of incurtilage car parking will require alternative parking elsewhere within the curtilage of the site or on street.

8.1.28In assessing planning applications for residential extensions and/or alterations in Conservation Areas, Areas of Townscape Character and those affecting Listed Buildings, Council will also consider the relevant Historic Environment policies (HE6, HE7, HE3) together with any policy or advice contained in the relevant local design guide.

8.1.29Applications for house extensions and alterations raise detailed, site specific issues and each case will be assessed on its individual merits. The acceptability of proposals will depend on the particular circumstances on the site and its surroundings and decisions will be informed by the guidance provided in Appendix G.

Policy HOU4 Protected Town Centre Housing Areas

Within designated Protected Town Centre Housing Areas, planning permission will not be granted for any development that results in a change of use from housing.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.30The LDP will support the protection of existing town centre housing stock and resist the spread of commercial uses into areas of town centres which have a useful longer-term residential life. Such areas provide valuable housing stock and are homes for established communities which help retain the town centre’s vitality, reduce vandalism and generally make it a more attractive place to live.

8.1.31This policy is justified on the basis of the responses to our Preferred Options Paper on this issue (Key Issue 10 refers).

8.1.32Protected Town Centre Housing areas will be designated in the Local Policies Plan. Those areas in the extant plans currently designated for such protection will be assessed and amended as necessary.

Balanced communities

8.1.33Achieving balanced communities throughout Northern Ireland is a key aim of broader Government policy as reflected in the draft PfG. The important role of housing is a vital part of the delivery mechanism as highlighted in both the RDS and SPPS. Diversity and social inclusion are distinguishing marks of well-balanced communities which embrace a mix of social groups and are able to accommodate people of different backgrounds who wish to live together. The provision of good quality housing offering a variety of house types, sizes and tenures to meet different needs, and development that provides opportunities for the community to share in local employment, shopping, leisure and social facilities, is highlighted in the SPPS as fundamental to building balanced communities.

8.1.34The SPPS acknowledges the role of the development plan as the primary vehicle for facilitating identified need by zoning land for affordable housing and indicating where a proportion of a site may be required for affordable housing. In seeking a proportion of affordable housing alongside general market housing in larger developments, the LDP will ensure the delivery of an appropriate range of house sizes, types and tenures to meet local needs, whilst minimising future disadvantage often associated with large areas of social housing. The SPPS also requires the LDP to make provision to meet the full range of housing needs. This includes provision for those who are elderly, disabled or with mobility issues.

8.1.35To help create balanced communities in Mid and East Antrim the following policies require residential developments to provide adaptable and accessible homes in a variety of house types, sizes and tenures.

Policy HOU5 Affordable Housing in Settlements

Where a need for Affordable Housing is established by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) or other relevant housing authority through a Housing Needs Assessment; proposals for housing developments of 10 dwellings or more, or on a site of 0.2 hectare or more, will only be permitted subject to meeting the following quota:

  • Main and Small Towns: 20% Affordable Housing
  • Villages and Small Settlements: 10% Affordable Housing

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

Justification and Amplification

8.1.36Affordable housing includes social rented housing and intermediate housing (see Glossary).

8.1.37In applying this policy, the up to date Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) for Mid and East Antrim, currently carried out annually by the NIHE will be a material consideration. Where it is shown that there is an unmet need for affordable housing in a settlement, there will be a requirement for all housing schemes above the specified threshold to provide affordable housing in line with this policy. In those circumstances where the number of affordable housing units required by this policy would exceed the need, a lower number of units will be acceptable.

8.1.38The provision of both social rented and intermediate housing is currently delivered by registered housing associations with the help of public sector grant and loan funding. Prior to submitting a planning application, an applicant/developer is therefore advised to liaise closely with a registered Housing Association and the NIHE to discuss the exact mix of affordable housing required in each case. This should ensure that affordable housing provided under this policy takes account of the specific needs of those in housing stress in a locality according to the common housing selection scheme as well as the broader housing need for the Borough as identified through the up to date HNA.

8.1.39The policy requires a minimum provision of 20% of units as affordable housing in main and small towns and a minimum of 10% in villages and small settlements, above the threshold stated. Where Council considers it necessary to provide a higher proportion of affordable housing, the LDP Local Policies Plan may seek to deliver this through key site requirements attached to specific housing zonings. Alternatively, enhanced provision may be sought directly with applicants on a case by case basis via the development management process. In either case, account will be taken of the viability of securing an enhanced level of provision in these areas where a high level of affordable housing need is confirmed through the HNA.

8.1.40It will not be acceptable to artificially divide lands for the purposes of circumventing the policy requirements or to propose applications to develop a larger site in phases of less than 10 units or 0.2 hectares, to avoid delivery of affordable housing. It is, however, acknowledged that in some cases a developer may have a reason for adopting a phased approach to the development of a site. Where this is the case, the concept masterplan should demonstrate the comprehensive planning of such a site and how the full affordable housing obligations will be met. Partial development may be permitted if the affordable housing element can be secured by way of Section 76 planning agreement.

8.1.41The delivery of affordable housing will be secured by way of a planning condition or a formal planning legal agreement between Council and the developer.

8.1.42Given the complexities around the delivery of affordable housing, supplementary planning guidance may be prepared in the future to provide greater clarity.

Policy HOU6 Housing Mix (Unit Types and Sizes)

Planning permission will be granted for new residential development of 25 or more units, or on sites of one hectare or more, where a mix of house types and sizes are provided. Provision should particularly be made for smaller homes to meet future household requirements in Mid and East Antrim. In smaller schemes the need to provide greater variety in type and size will be considered on its individual merits.

The required mix of house types and sizes will be negotiated with developers, taking account of the specific characteristics of the development, the site and its context and the nature of the local housing need. In locations where apartment development of 25 or more units is considered acceptable, variety in the size of units will be required.

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

Justification and Amplification

8.1.43The mixture of different types and sizes of houses and apartments required through this policy will help to provide choice within residential developments, particularly on larger sites, to assist with the creation of high quality, sustainable places and balanced communities. Whilst it is also desirable to promote diversification of tenure within residential developments, this aspect will be addressed primarily through Policy HOU5 Affordable Housing in Settlements.

8.1.44The general information on the broad housing mix considered appropriate across the Borough is provided through the up to date Housing Market Analysis (HMA), updated periodically by NIHE and published on their website (www.nihe.gov.uk). Currently, analysis of the local housing market in Mid and East Antrim shows an ageing population, reducing household size and a decline in the number of households with children. This emphasises the need for ‘smaller size, new build houses’ within the Borough (Mid and East Antrim Housing Market Analysis Update, NIHE, June 2018). However, it is accepted that the appropriate mix of house types and sizes in each case will be influenced by the location, site characteristics and local housing need patterns. The preferred housing mix will also vary by tenure. Accordingly, the proposed housing mix will need to be determined on a case by case basis in response to up to date evidence of housing need. The policy therefore facilities the flexibility needed to deliver appropriate house types and sizes in response to local circumstances.

Policy HOU7 Adaptable and Accessible Homes

To assist with the delivery of adaptable and accessible homes, planning permission will be granted for a new dwelling where the following criteria are met:

  1. where a dwelling has car parking within its individual plot boundary, at least one parking space should be capable of enlargement to achieve a minimum width of 3300mm. Where communal parking is proposed at least two out of every 20 spaces should have a width of 3300mm;
  2. dining areas and living rooms should allow space for turning a wheelchair;
  3. a living room/living space will normally be expected to be provided on the entrance level of every dwelling;
  4. the principal window in the principal living space should be sited to enable outlook when seated; and
  5. an accessible bathroom, which allows space for turning a wheelchair, should be provided on the same floor as the main bedroom.

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

Justification and Amplification

8.1.45While the existing Building Regulations (2012) focus on ensuring that dwellings are accessible for visitors; the intention of this policy is that homes are accessible for those who live in them. Lifetime Homes standards31 are a nationally recognised set of criteria to make new dwellings adaptable enough to accommodate a household’s changing lifetime needs and enable them to be lived in and visited by people with varying degrees of mobility. Whilst some of the Lifetime Homes standards are included in technical booklet Part R of the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012, many are not. This policy seeks to address those elements of the standards that can be adequately addressed through the planning system. The policy will apply more to new dwellings provided through the private sector as the requirement for Housing Associations to build to the Lifetime Home standards has applied in NI since 1998 and is set out in the DfC Housing Association Guide (HAG).

8.1.46This policy applies to all proposals for new dwellings, flats and apartments including a dwelling located in the countryside. On submitting a planning application, floor plans should indicate an unobstructed turning circle of 1500mm diameter or a turning ellipse of 1700mm x 1400mm within dining areas, living rooms and also in accessible bathrooms on the same floor as the main bedroom to allow space for turning a wheelchair. To allow a reasonable view from the principal living space, the principal window in this living space, or glazed doors should include glazing that starts no higher than 800mm above floor level.

8.1.47It is recognised that there may be some exceptional circumstances where not all of these policy criteria can be accommodated whilst still meeting other planning policy requirements. Such cases will be considered on their merits whilst carefully balancing all policy and other material considerations.

Policy HOU8 Travellers Accommodation

Where a demonstrable need for Travellers specific accommodation is identified in the Housing Needs Assessment, planning permission will be granted for a suitable facility which meets this need. This may be provided through either a grouped housing scheme, a serviced site or a transit site in a settlement where the General Policy and the following criteria are met:

  1. there is suitable provision of utilities, including running water, toilet facilities and waste disposal; and
  2. the proposal will provide convenient access to local services, including health services, education facilities, public transport, employment opportunities and open space.

Where a need is identified for a transit site or a serviced site, which cannot readily be met within an existing settlement in the locality, a proposal will be required to meet the requirements of Policy HOU16 Affordable Housing in the Countryside.

Exceptionally, where a need is demonstrated through the Housing Needs Assessment produced by NIHE, a single family Traveller transit site or serviced site may be permitted in the countryside. Such proposals will be assessed on their merits.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.48Travellers have distinctive needs which will be assessed as part of the annual Housing Needs Assessment for Mid and East Antrim produced by NIHE and which may be met in a number of ways including; grouped housing schemes, services sites or transit sites (See Glossary). As with other housing proposals the priority will be for Travellers’ accommodation to be located within settlements.

8.1.49In addition to ensuring any proposal complies with the General Policy and is compatible with neighbouring uses and is appropriately integrated, policy criteria a) and b) seeks to address broader issues including provision of utilities and access to local services.

Housing in the Countryside

8.1.50The LDP Spatial Growth Strategy aims to facilitate sustainable development in the open countryside, balancing the need to protect the environment and rural character while sustaining a strong and vibrant rural community. Accordingly, in order to deliver the Spatial Growth Strategy and the broader regional objectives of the SPPS, housing growth in the countryside must be carefully managed in order to avoid excessive or unnecessary development and to ensure that development permitted is appropriate to the rural context.

8.1.51The following operational strategic subject policies for housing in the countryside (outside designated settlement limits) are therefore targeted to the delivery of housing to meet the essential needs of rural communities while protecting the environment and rural character. To a large extent this is reflected in the policy focus on the clustering, consolidating and grouping of new development with existing established buildings or the reuse of previously used buildings or sites which benefit from service provision.

Policy HOU9 Replacement Dwelling

Planning permission will be granted for a replacement dwelling in the countryside where:

  1. the building to be replaced exhibits the essential characteristics of a dwelling; and
  2. as a minimum all external structural walls are substantially intact.

For the purposes of this policy all references to ‘dwellings’ will include buildings previously used as dwellings.

Buildings designed and used for agricultural purposes, such as sheds or stores, and buildings of a temporary construction will not be eligible for replacement under this policy.

This policy will not apply to buildings where planning permission has previously been granted for a replacement dwelling and a condition has been imposed restricting the future use of the original building, or where the building is immune from enforcement action as a result of non-compliance with a condition to demolish.

Listed Dwelling

Planning permission will not be granted for the replacement of a listed dwelling unless there are exceptional reasons, see Policy HE4 Listed Buildings - Demolition of a Listed Building.

Non-Listed Vernacular Dwelling

All proposals for the replacement of a non-listed vernacular building will be assessed against this policy and the policy provisions of Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building.

Non-Residential Building

Favourable consideration will be given to the replacement of a permanent redundant non-residential building with a single dwelling, where the redevelopment proposed would bring significant environmental benefits and provided the building is not listed or otherwise makes an important contribution to the heritage, appearance or character of the locality.

All Replacement Cases

In addition to the above, a proposal for a replacement dwelling will only be permitted where it meets the General Policy, accords with other provisions of the LDP and where:

  1. The proposed replacement dwelling is sited within the established curtilage of the existing building, unless either:
    1. the curtilage is so restricted that it could not reasonably accommodate a modest sized dwelling; or
    2. it can be shown that an alternative position nearby would result in demonstrable landscape, heritage, access or amenity benefits;
  2. The overall size of the new dwelling should allow it to integrate into the surrounding landscape and would not have a visual impact significantly greater than the existing building.

For the purposes of this policy ‘curtilage’ will mean the immediate, usually defined and enclosed area surrounding an existing or former dwelling house.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.52The replacement of existing dwellings particularly those that may be unfit, is important to the renewal and up-grading of the rural housing stock and can secure environmental benefits. All permissions for a replacement dwelling granted under this policy will be subject to a condition requiring demolition of the existing dwelling or restricting its future use if it is to be retained as part of the overall development scheme, and in cases where the original building is retained, it will not be eligible for replacement again.

8.1.53This policy does not allow for the replacement of buildings which are essentially ruinous or where the building is only partially remaining. The terms ‘essential characteristics’ and ‘substantially intact’ raise detailed and site specific issues relating to the characteristics and condition of buildings and each case will be assessed on its individual merits. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that the building to be replaced meets both of these criteria through the submission of detailed plans, photos or other verifiable evidence.

8.1.54Proposals to replace existing semi-detached or terraced dwellings will generally only be acceptable if replaced in situ with the proposed new dwelling remaining attached to the other elements of the existing development unless there are practical mitigating circumstances to be considered. All proposals for a replacement dwelling located within a Special Countryside Area will be assessed against this policy and strategic spatial proposal CS2 Special Countryside Areas.

8.1.55It should be noted that the policy provisions of Policy HE4 Listed Buildings - Demolition of a Listed Building state that there is a presumption in favour of the retention of buildings listed as being of special architectural or historic interest.

Policy HOU10 Dwelling on a Farm Business

Planning permission will be granted for a dwelling on land included on a farm business where the applicant can demonstrate all of the following:

  1. the farm business is currently active and has been active and established for the last six years;
  2. no dwellings or development opportunities out-with settlement limits have been sold-off from the farm business within 10 years from the date of the application; and
  3. the new building is visually linked or sited to cluster with an established group of buildings on the farm and where practicable, access to the dwelling should be obtained from an existing lane. Exceptionally, consideration may be given to an alternative site elsewhere on the farm, provided there are no other sites available at another group of buildings on the farm or out-farm, and where there are either:
    • demonstrable health and safety reasons for not clustering with existing farm buildings; or
    • verifiable plans to expand the farm business at the existing building group(s).

Planning permission granted under this policy will only be forthcoming once every 10 years.

Planning permission will not be granted for a dwelling under this policy where a farm business is artificially divided solely for the purpose of obtaining planning permission.

A proposal for a dwelling by those involved in the keeping and breeding of horses for commercial purposes will also be assessed under the criteria set out in this policy.

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

Justification and Amplification

8.1.56It is considered that there is a continuing need for new dwellings on farms to accommodate those engaged in farm business. A dwelling under this policy will not be acceptable unless the existing farm business is both active and established.

8.1.57For 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 activity32 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. Hobby farming is not considered to constitute a farm business and will not satisfy the requirements of this policy.

In all cases such evidence must cover a minimum of the last six years from the date of the application.

8.1.58Planning permission will not be granted for a dwelling under this policy where a farm business has recently sold-off a development opportunity from the farm such as a replacement dwelling or other building capable of conversion. For the purposes of this policy, ‘sold-off’ will mean any development opportunity disposed of from the farm business to any other person including a member of the family.

8.1.59To help minimise impact on the character and appearance of the landscape a dwelling should be positioned sensitively with an established group of buildings on the farm, either to form an integral part of that particular building group, or when viewed from surrounding vantage points, to reads as being visually interlinked with those buildings, with little perception of any physical separation that may exist between them. The need for visual linkage may be set aside if there is existing mature vegetation that effectively screens an adjacent site from public view. Those farm businesses which do not have an established group of buildings will not satisfy this policy and it will not be acceptable to position a new dwelling so as to group with buildings on a neighbouring farm business.

8.1.60Where an alternative site is proposed under criterion c) for health and safety reasons, the applicant will be required to submit robust evidence from a competent and independent authority such as the Health and Safety Executive or Council’s Environmental Health Department to justify the case. Evidence relating to plans for the future expansion of the farm business may include extant planning permissions, building control approvals or contractual obligations to supply farm produce.

8.1.61A proposal for a dwelling associated with an equine business is to be afforded the same policy considerations as an established and active farm business. Such businesses will include horse breeding and training and the operating or livery yards, trekking centres and riding schools. Applicants will have to provide sufficient information to demonstrate a level of involvement commensurate with commercial activity over the requisite period of six years prior to the submission of the application. Such information should include:

  • A statement of commercial rateable history for the business.
  • Copies of appropriate Insurances.
  • Copies of ‘Horse Passports’ (if applicable).
  • Any other information considered relevant to the particular case.

Those keeping horses and/or ponies for hobby purposes will not satisfy the requirements of this policy.

8.1.62The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will confirm the Business ID number and will be further consulted as necessary in regard to the information supplied in support of applications.

Policy HOU11 Dwelling for Non-Agricultural Business Enterprise

Planning permission will be granted for a dwelling in connection with an established non- agricultural business enterprise located beside or within the boundaries of the business enterprise and integrated with the buildings on the site, and where it meets the General Policy, accords with other provisions of the LDP and it is clearly demonstrated that:

  1. a site specific need exists that makes it essential for an employee of the business to live at the site of their work;

  2. there are no alternative development opportunities available under any other policy; and

  3. there are no reasonable alternative solutions to meet the particular circumstances of the case.

Planning permission granted under this policy will be subject to a condition restricting occupation of the dwelling for the use of the business.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.63Established non-agricultural business enterprises, located in the countryside, may require residential accommodation. The presence of such a business is not, of itself, sufficient justification to grant permission for someone to live on the site. Applicants must provide sufficient information to show that there is a site specific need which makes it essential for one of the firm’s employees to live at the site of their work, as against a general desire for a dwelling in association with the business.

8.1.64A business which has been operating satisfactorily without residential accommodation will be expected to demonstrate why accommodation is now considered necessary in order to enable the enterprise to function properly. The need to provide improved security from theft and/or vandalism by having someone living on the site is unlikely on its own to warrant the grant of planning permission.

Policy HOU12 New Dwelling in Existing Clusters

Planning permission will be granted for a dwelling at an existing cluster of development provided it meets with the General Policy, accords with other provisions of the LDP and all the following criteria are met:

  1. the existing group of buildings (or cluster) displays a cohesive built form and constitutes a distinct visual entity in the rural landscape and is associated with a focal point;
  2. the cluster of development lies outside of a farm and consists of four or more buildings (excluding ancillary buildings such as garages, outbuildings and open sided structures) of which at least three are dwellings;
  3. the identified site provides a suitable degree of enclosure and is bounded on at least two sides with other development in the cluster;
  4. the proposed development can be absorbed into the existing cluster through rounding off and consolidation and will not significantly alter its existing character, or visually intrude into the open countryside;
  5. the proposed dwelling does not result in the coalescence of two visually distinct groups of buildings; and
  6. the proposal will not create or add to a ribbon of development.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.65A cluster is a close grouping of buildings, and whether it constitutes a visual entity will be determined by both visual linkages and physical proximity. For the purposes of this policy examples of what constitutes a focal point includes a social/community building/facility, or cross-roads. A social/community building/facility is an identifiable entity used by the community for gatherings or activities with social interactions including a church, community hall or school building.

8.1.66As this policy solely relates to proposals within the countryside, buildings and/or focal points within settlements cannot be relied upon.

8.1.67Further information on what may constitute a cluster and best practice guidance is set out in the supplementary planning guidance ‘Building on Tradition’ (DOE 2012).

Policy HOU13 Ribbon / Infill Development

Planning permission will be refused for a building which creates or adds to a ribbon of development in the countryside.

An exception will be permitted for the development of a small gap site sufficient to accommodate only one dwelling within an otherwise substantial and continuously built up frontage and provided this respects the existing development pattern along the frontage in terms of size, scale, siting and plot size, meets the General Policy and accords with other provisions of the LDP.

For the purpose of this policy the definition of a substantial and built up frontage includes a line of three or more substantial buildings with a common frontage to a road, footpath or private lane served by individual accesses and visually linked when viewed from that road, footpath or private lane.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.68Ribbon development is detrimental to the character, appearance and amenity of the countryside. It creates and reinforces a built-up appearance to roads, footpaths and private laneways and can sterilise back-land, often hampering the planned expansion of settlements. It can also make access to farmland difficult and cause road safety problems. Development that extenuates or extends ribboning will therefore be unacceptable.

8.1.69For the purposes of this policy:

  • A ‘ribbon’ does not necessarily have a continuous or uniform building line. Buildings sited back, staggered or at angles and with gaps between them can still represent ribbon development, if they have a common frontage and they are visually linked when viewed from the road.
  • A building has a frontage to a road, footpath or private lane if the plot on which it stands abuts or shares a boundary with that road, footpath or private lane; an access does not constitute a road frontage.
  • The ‘substantial buildings’ that are being relied upon to create a substantial and built up frontage, should not be located within a designated settlement limit, each should have their own defined curtilage and cannot include ancillary domestic sheds, outbuildings or garages or small agricultural buildings.
  • ‘Visually linked’ refers to a perception of a continuous line of development.

8.1.70Many frontages in the countryside have gaps between houses or other buildings that provide relief and visual breaks in the developed appearance of the locality that help maintain rural character. The infilling of these gaps will therefore not be permitted except where it comprises the development of a small gap within an otherwise substantial and continuously built up frontage. It will not be sufficient for an applicant to simply show how one dwelling could be accommodated. Applicants must take full account of the existing pattern of development and produce a design solution to integrate the new buildings.

Policy HOU14 Personal and Domestic Circumstances

Planning permission will be granted for a dwelling in the countryside to provide for the long term needs of an individual or family, where there are compelling, and site specific reasons for this related to the applicant’s personal or domestic circumstances and provided it meets the General Policy, accords with other provisions of the LDP and both the following criteria are met:

  1. the applicant can provide satisfactory evidence that a new dwelling is a necessary response to the particular circumstances of the case and that genuine hardship would be caused if planning permission were refused; and
  2. there are no alternative solutions to meet the particular circumstances of the case, such as: an extension or annex attached to the existing dwelling; the conversion or reuse of another building within the curtilage of the property; or the use of a temporary mobile home for a limited period to deal with immediate short term circumstances.

All permissions granted under this policy will be subject to a condition restricting the occupation of the dwelling to a named individual and their dependents.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.71This policy makes provision for a new dwelling in the countryside where this is justified through the particular personal or domestic circumstances pertaining to the applicant or a family member. Often, such cases will be health related. Whatever the circumstances each case needs to be carefully considered on its own merits.

8.1.72Applicants will be expected to provide sufficient information to allow a proper assessment of each specific case. Such information should include:

  • A statement detailing the special personal or domestic circumstances supported if appropriate by medical evidence from a medical or health professional.
  • Details of the level of care required in relation to any medical condition again supported by the appropriate health professional, the identity of the main carer, their current address and occupation.
  • An explanation of why care can only be provided at the specific location and how genuine hardship would be caused if planning permission were refused.
  • Details of what alternatives to a new dwelling have been considered e.g. extension/annex to an existing dwelling and why such alternatives are not considered practical to meet the site specific need.
  • Any other information considered relevant to the particular case.

Policy HOU15 Residential Caravans and Mobile Homes

Planning permission may be granted for a residential caravan or mobile home in the countryside, for a temporary period only, in exceptional circumstances.

These exceptional circumstances include:

  1. the provision of temporary residential accommodation pending the development of a permanent dwelling; or
  2. where there are compelling and site-specific reasons related to personal or domestic circumstances (see Policy HOU14 Personal and Domestic Circumstances).

All permissions will be subject to a three-year time limit. However, this may be extended having regard to the particular circumstances of the case.

The siting of a residential caravan or mobile home will be subject to the same planning and environmental considerations as a permanent dwelling. Permission will depend on the ability to integrate the unit within an existing building group and screen the unit from public view. Residential caravans or mobile homes on farms will be required to be visually linked or sited to cluster with an established group of buildings on the farm.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.73The design and finishes of a residential caravan or mobile home limits its potential for integration into the landscape. For this reason, planning permission will not be granted for a permanently sited residential caravan or mobile home in the countryside. It is accepted however, that in exceptional circumstances, a caravan or mobile home can be a sensible temporary solution, to meeting the need for residential accommodation in the countryside.

Policy HOU16 Affordable Housing in the Countryside

Planning permission may be granted for a group of no more than 14 dwellings adjacent to a village or no more than 8 dwellings adjacent to a small settlement to meet an identified affordable housing need of a rural community. Planning permission will only be granted where the application is made by a registered housing association and where the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) confirm that the need cannot be met within an existing settlement in the locality.

In assessing the acceptability of sites outside a village or small settlement, the following sequential test in terms of location will be applied:

  1. land adjacent to the existing settlement limit, subject to amenity and environmental considerations;
  2. a site close to the settlement limits which currently contains buildings or where the site is already in a degraded or derelict state and there is an opportunity to improve the environment;
  3. an undeveloped site in close proximity to the settlement where the development could be visually integrated into the landscape.

All proposals will need to be sited and designed to integrate sympathetically with their surroundings, meet the General Policy and accord with other provisions of the LDP.

Only one such group will be permitted in close proximity to any particular rural settlement.

Justification and Amplification

8.1.74Affordable housing includes social rented housing and intermediate housing (see Glossary).

8.1.75Council will expect the affordable housing needs of rural communities to be met largely within villages and small settlements. However, an exception may be made where a specific need for affordable housing has been established through an up to date Housing Needs Assessment for the Borough, currently carried out annually by the NIHE, and where the need has not been foreseen and provided for through the LDP process.

8.1.76Applications for affordable housing groups will be restricted to registered housing associations. Such proposals will need to be accompanied by information demonstrating that the potential to locate the necessary housing within settlement limits has been explored, and that no suitable sites are available.

  • 30 - A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is defined by the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.
  • 31 - Lifetime Homes Standards have now been superseded in England and Wales by the Building Regulations (Category 2)
  • 32 - 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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