8. Building Sustainable Communities
Creating sustainable communities is central to both the RDS and the SPPS. The RDS sates that, “sustainable communities are places where people want to live, work and play now and in the future. They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to the environment and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.”
Building sustainable communities is also dependent upon securing the long term health and wellbeing of our citizens. Whilst the health and welfare agencies have a primary role in this, there is growing awareness of the social and economic benefits to preventing ill health, rather than reacting to it. It is in this context that there is a clear role for the planning system in shaping a physical environment that is safe and that offers opportunities to everyone for the activities such as walking and cycling that are likely to assist in improving health and wellbeing.
Within our settlements, open spaces play an important role in creating this type of environment. Through the LDP, existing open space will be protected and appropriate green areas or routes supported. The LDP will also help build balanced and healthy communities within Mid and East Antrim through appropriate housing mix alongside meeting local needs for affordable and specialised housing.
Strategic planning places emphasis on the importance of the relationship between the location of housing, jobs, services and infrastructure and generally seeks to ensure that housing is accessible to employment and core services. The regional direction for housing is also to avoid adverse impacts on the natural or historic environment and to ensure that it does not take place in areas posing significant risk to people and property. This will be particularly important in the countryside where through the LDP a balanced approach will be taken between the protection of the environment from inappropriate development and sustaining rural communities.
Building sustainable communities is an important thread running through our Community Plan. By facilitating the provision of quality housing, open space and essential services to meet the needs of everyone in a sustainable manner, the LDP aims to support the delivery of two key themes within our Community Plan; ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’ and ‘Community Safety and Cohesion’.
The strategic subject policies within this chapter will assist with the implementation of the strategic objectives set out in Chapter 4.0, particularly the following:
- To support rural communities by providing appropriate opportunities for sustainable development in the countryside.
- To provide a sufficient supply of land for new mixed tenure housing in convenient locations to meet the anticipatedhousing need of around 7,500 dwellings for the period 2012 to 2030, including any identified special housing needs.
- To deliver quality residential environments (including associated public open space and linkages to green infrastructure networks).
- To facilitate confirmed needs for the development of new health, educational, recreational and community services at locations accessible to local communities through various modes of transportation.
- To support, and where possible enhance, the recreation and leisure offer within Mid and East Antrim, including safeguarding and promoting access to the coast and to heritage assets.
- To promote active travel and increased opportunities for walking and cycling while protecting existing active travel routes and networks.
- To facilitate regeneration initiatives, particularly where they will provide for quality public places and ‘shared spaces’ that are accessible to and valued by everyone, or where they improve the quality of life for disadvantaged local communities.
In this chapter, the strategic subject polices are informed by our evidence base and the relevant regional and local policy context, alongside our Sustainability Appraisal objectives, particularly the following:
- Improve health and wellbeing;
- Strengthen society;
- Provide good quality, sustainable housing;
- Enable access to high quality education;
- Encourage active and sustainable travel;
- Improve air quality and reduce causes of and adapt to climate change;
- Protect natural resources and enhance biodiversity; and
- Maintain and enhance landscape character.