10.3.1Place-making involves the planning and design of urban places, adopting a holistic approach, which recognises the need to incorporate the design and stewardship of new developments and public spaces into the process of change in urban areas. This is a people-centred approach to shaping urban places that seeks to enhance the unique qualities of a place. Central Government’s publication ‘Living Places’ acknowledges the key contributions made by urban design and urban stewardship (para 4.35 of SPPS) to the urban environment, and how these factors and the role of people interact in the creation of successful places.
10.3.2The larger settlements within Mid and East Antrim contain strategically important areas for the economy and tourism. For example, within the Borough, Ballymena town centre is a key retail destination, Carrickfergus Castle is a major tourist destination and Larne town centre and waterfront occupies a key location along the Causeway Coastal Route. These areas have key assets that have supported their successful functioning over time. However, it is recognised that specific economic challenges in the retail sector, the pressure to adapt urban areas to suit modern consumer trends and the changing relationships between people and travel modes presents challenges for these urban areas. Therefore, it is imperative that the planning system supports any future Council vision for such strategically important urban areas in the context of sustainable development. By developing a bespoke spatial framework for key urban areas, which supports the Council’s vision for such places, the LDP aims to support the delivery of the economic, tourism and environmental aspects of our Community Plan.
10.3.3There are various challenges to successful place-making such as the current economic challenges specific to our Borough, issues around the increase in online shopping and viability of town centres, and the impact of car orientated development, for example the Marine Highway impedes pedestrian movement between Carrickfergus Castle and the town centre. Further, defining what makes a place successful is complex and generating community ‘buy-in’ for a strategy can present difficulties. Place-making involves creating somewhere with a distinct identity and the SPPS states that the “key to successful place-making is identifying the assets of a particular place as well as developing a vision for its future potential”. The central measure of success adopted by Central Government’s publication ‘Living Places’ is “how sustainable a place is” and this guiding document advocates the pursuit of ‘Ten Qualities’ of Urban Stewardship and Design.
10.3.4The LDP strategic approach to place-making is set out in our policy aims below. These policy aims fully embrace the approach to place-making set out in the SPPS. They also build on the key considerations informing the approach set out in our POP in relation to Strategic Focus Areas (Place-making and Good Design section).
To promote the principles of successful place-making and good design in order to achieve a coherent and sustainable approach to development within strategically important urban areas; and
To support Council’s vision for strategically important urban areas.
10.3.5The policy aims will be delivered primarily through the strategic policy set out in this section and designation of Strategic Focus Areas (SFAs) at the Local Policies Plan stage. For any future designated SFA, Council will develop a Spatial Framework which will set out the planning objectives for, and identify the key features within, a designated SFA. The planning objectives and identified key features will be generated from information collated through a detailed survey of the SFA(s) which will identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing these strategically important urban areas.
Policy SFA1 Strategic Focus Areas
Within a designated Strategic Focus Area, development proposals are required to be in accordance with both of the following criteria:
support the objectives of the Strategic Focus Area; and
protect and/or enhance identified key features within the Strategic Focus Area and their settings and linkages.
All development proposals will also be required to meet the General Policy criteria and accord with other provisions of the LDP.
Justification and Amplification
10.3.6Place-making is a people-centred approach to the planning, design and stewardship of new developments and public spaces that seeks to enhance the unique qualities of a place. The SPPS states that, “key to successful place-making is identifying the assets of a particular place as well as developing a vision for its future potential”.
10.3.7Our Borough has distinctive urban areas that give expression to the unique identity of Mid and East Antrim. Such areas, through their distinctiveness, also offer opportunities for tourism development and economic growth. Often, these areas have evolved around a distinctive historic core, and may also be a key location. Carrickfergus, with its historic castle and town walls, coastal setting and location on the Causeway Coastal Route, is an obvious example. Such areas have unique selling points, which can be exploited to promote economic growth through tourism. To maximise their potential, these special urban areas should be inviting, stimulating and encourage visitors to engage in activities such as leisure, recreation, shopping or simply to stay and experience the distinctive buildings and streetscape setting. This requires a place-making approach.
10.3.8In order to support good place-making in such areas, the Local Policies Plan will designate Strategic Focus Areas. The overall aim of a SFA is to support the successful and sustainable development of discrete urban areas that are strategically important for our Borough, in regard to sustainable tourism and economic growth and their heritage and unique amenity value.
10.3.9The Local Policies Plan will set out a bespoke Spatial Framework and objectives for each designated SFA that will support the Council’s strategic vision for that area. The spatial framework will be supported by planning guidance that will seek to manage development so as to meet the place-making objectives and secure a coherent and sustainable approach to the development of the area. Such guidance will take account of identified key features such as important views and vistas, buildings, streets, squares, green and blue infrastructure and pedestrian/cycle networks. It will also identify spatial linkages and functional relationships between key features and explain how all these elements combine to create (or have potential to create) a wider ‘sense of place’.
10.3.10A Spatial Framework with associated planning guidance will support place-making and further the Council’s strategic vision for these strategically important urban areas. This is considered imperative given the challenging economic conditions facing our town centres and the intense competition in the tourism sector.