5.5.1All of our settlements have a role in meeting the retail and associated needs of communities in Mid and East Antrim and in their contribution to retail growth across the Borough. However this role is not a uniform one and will vary according to a wide range of factors such as the size of the settlement and its retail catchment, the capacity to support retail development, the accessibility of the settlement by various modes of transport, location relative to the strategic road network, and the presence of complementary services such as financial offices, retail services, and community, cultural and leisure facilities.

5.5.2There is also a regional planning policy imperative set out in the SPPS which seeks to promote established town centres across Northern Ireland as the appropriate first choice location of retailing and other complementary functions, consistent with the RDS. This is referred to in the SPPS, as a town centre first approach for the location of future retailing and other main town centre uses. Through this policy approach, the SPPS seeks to encourage retail development at an appropriate scale in order to enhance the attractiveness of town centres, maximise footfall and discourage out of centre competition. Other sustainable benefits likely to arise through focusing retail growth in the larger centres of population include reduced travel demand and greater potential for the use of public transport or active travel modes.

5.5.3To ensure that the nature and scale of new retail development is appropriate to the particular settlement, the SPPS requires all LDPs to define a network and hierarchy of centres, including town, district and local centres, while acknowledging the role and function of rural centres.

5.5.4Strategic Proposal SGS7 Retail Hierarchy sets out the proposed network and hierarchy of centres (termed the retail hierarchy) for Mid and East Antrim. The retail hierarchy conforms with the LDP spatial growth strategy and to a large extent aligns with the proposed settlement hierarchy. Essentially, the retail hierarchy provides the spatial framework for the operational planning policies relating to retailing set out in Part 2 and in so doing this makes clear which retail uses will be permitted in the various tiers of hierarchy.

Proposal / Policy Aims

5.5.5The LDP strategic approach to retail is set out in our aims below.

  • To define the network and hierarchy of centres (a retail hierarchy) appropriate for Mid and East Antrim;
  • To identify the broad type and scale of retail development considered appropriate for each tier of the retail hierarchy; and
  • To provide a spatial framework for the application of retail operational policies intended to deliver sustainable retail growth across the Borough.

SGS7 Retail Hierarchy

Development within the designated town centres will be permitted provided that it maintains their primary retail function and wider role as a focus for business, leisure, cultural and other appropriate town centre uses. Retail activity elsewhere should be focussed within lower tier centres, which will be expected to retain a core of local shopping facilities and accommodate any new retail development, commensurate to their position in the retail hierarchy. The Retail Hierarchy is set out below:

Table 5.6 Retail Hierarchy






Town Centres

Provides (or has the potential to provide) a range of shops, services, businesses and community facilities to a significant hinterland which includes smaller neighbouring towns or suburbs.



Small Town Centres

Provides (or has the potential to provide) a range of shops, services, businesses and community facilities to serve a hinterland which includes neighbouring small towns and villages.



Local Centres

Provides (or has the potential to provide) a limited range of shops, services, businesses and community facilities to serve the immediate local area.



Village Centres6

Provides (or has the potential to provide) a limited range of shops, generally comprising a grocery store, occasionally a petrol filling station, and other small shops of a local nature serving a small village and surrounding rural area.


Justification and Amplification

5.5.6In recognition of the LDP Spatial Growth Strategy and their position in the top tier of the settlement hierarchy, the principal focus for retail growth and other town centre uses shall be within Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus town centres. In regard to the RDS, this also reflects the regional status of both Ballymena and Larne as ‘main hubs’ and of Carrickfergus as a key location within the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area. Larne is also designated as a ‘gateway’.

5.5.7Whilst the second tier towns vary in size and provision of services, they contain centres which perform an important function in meeting both the daily and weekly needs of local communities. Therefore, in keeping with the SPPS and to support and sustain these centres as vibrant town centres, the LDP adopts a town centre first approach for retail and other main town centres uses.

5.5.8The retail hierarchy also recognises that appropriate provision for retail facilities in the villages, small settlements and local centres can complement the main town centres. Thus, opportunities for small scale provision in line with a town centre first approach and of a scale and nature appropriate to the character of a settlement, shall be encouraged where this helps to meet the daily shopping needs of local residents and necessary local services.

5.5.9The policy approach of the SPPS is to resist the development of inappropriate retail facilities in the countryside as this has potential to undermine the town centre first approach and may impact adversely upon rural character and amenity. The SPPS does set out some exceptions which may be considered outside settlement limits. However, as these are exceptions, specific provision for this form of retailing is not incorporated within the retail hierarchy. Operational subject policy is nevertheless set out in Part 2.

  • 5 - Note Portglenone is identified as a village in the LDP Settlement Hierarchy
  • 6 - Also includes designated Small Settlements

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