CS2 Special Countryside Areas

Special Countryside Areas (SCAs) are designated at the following locations (refer to District Proposals Maps) in order to protect the exceptional landscape, unique amenity value and the environmental assets associated with the natural and historic environment of these areas:

  • Larne Coast
  • The Gobbins Coast
  • Slemish Mountain
  • Lough Beg

Within all these SCAs there will be a presumption against all new development other than in exceptional circumstances. A proposal must fully demonstrate that it constitutes one of the exceptions listed below and that it will not result in an adverse impact on the landscape quality, or landscape character, or unique amenity value, or the environmental assets of the SCA (hereafter collectively referred to in this policy as the impact on the SCA).


  1. the proposed development is of such national or regional importance as to outweigh any potential adverse impact on the SCA; or
  2. the proposed development is for the in-situ replacement of an existing dwelling or building (of the same use and similar in size and height as the existing); or
  3. the proposal relates to the minor8 extension or alteration of an existing dwelling, any proposed extension or alteration should be sympathetic in character and scale to the original dwelling; or
  4. the proposed development relates to minor operations9 or necessary improvements to existing infrastructure10; or
  5. the proposed development relates to the provision of appropriate open space, pathways or recreational facilities for the enjoyment of the public; or
  6. the proposed development is a council led or supported tourism project at an existing tourist/visitor site.

All development proposals will also be required to meet the General Policy criteria and accord with other provisions of the LDP. In the case of the two coastal SCAs, development proposals must have regard to the Marine Policy Statement and the Draft Marine Plan for NI.

Justification and Amplification

In line with the SPPS, the LDP has designated four Special Countryside Areas (SCAs) on the basis that these key areas of Mid and East Antrim are exceptional landscapes, wherein the quality of the landscape and unique amenity value is such, that development will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. The Larne Coast SCA and Slemish Mountain SCA are both iconic landscapes within the broader Antrim Coast and Glens AONB. They are also landscapes which give definition to the unique character of Mid and East Antrim. All of the SCAs are also of unique amenity value. The two coastal SCAs form part of the Causeway Coastal Route, and by virtue of features such as the coast road and the Gobbins cliff path, they are of unique amenity value for tourists and visitors. Slemish Mountain because of its historic association with Saint Patrick, and Lough Beg because of its international status as a wetland habitat, also offer unique amenity value. The evidence to support these designations is contained in the Landscape Character Assessment within Technical Supplement 10 Countryside Assessment).

Whilst there is a general presumption against all development within these SCAs, the policy allows for a number of exceptions. In all cases, the proposal will be required to minimise the visual and environmental impact and respect the tranquil and often wild character of these areas. To this end, Council may require the submission of additional assessments which fully demonstrate that the landscape value, heritage, ecology and biodiversity of the area has been fully considered and that any adverse impacts can be effectively mitigated.

Whilst the policy makes provision for a proposal of national or regional importance, the applicant will be required to make a compelling case to demonstrate why a location within an SCA is necessary, and why potential alternative sites outside the SCA are unsuitable. Where such a development proposal requires a coastal location, alternative coastal sites outside of the Larne Coast and Gobbins Coast SCAs, and preferably within a coastal settlement, will need to be considered first. Where development is permitted under this exception, adequate mitigation and/or compensatory measures must be agreed with Council in advance of planning permission being granted. The Marine Policy Statement and draft Marine Plan for NI will be taken into account in assessing such proposals within coastal SCAs.

The potential impact of a replacement dwelling should be carefully considered, particularly where the proposal by virtue of its scale or design may have visual and amenity implications. The visual impact of the replacement dwelling must not be significantly greater than the original building and should integrate well into the landscape. Accordingly, all replacement proposals will be required to be constructed within the established curtilage11 of the site. Permission will not be granted for offsite replacements. This policy needs to be read in conjunction with other relevant policies in the LDP, in particular Policy HOU9 Replacement Dwelling.

Proposals for the extension or alteration of a dwelling must be minor, sympathetic and subordinate to the existing dwelling and respect the character of the surrounding area. With regard to the size of any new extension, ‘minor’ will be interpreted as being an increase in the overall volume of no more than 30% of the size of the original dwelling. If the original dwelling is considered to be a Non-listed Locally Important or Vernacular Building, consideration must also be given to preserving particular features of architectural or historic interest, (refer to Policy HE8 Non-listed Locally Important Building or Vernacular Building for further information).

As these SCAs are of unique amenity value, it is important that they can be enjoyed by the public and tourists in a sustainable manner and in a way that does not diminish the quality of the resource itself. Accordingly, the policy makes provision for development that will enhance the enjoyment and understanding of these unique areas.

  • 8 - For the purposes of this policy a minor extension will be deemed as being an increase in the overall volume of no more than 30% of the size of the original dwelling.
  • 9 - Minor Operations for the purposes of this policy are as defined under Part 3 of The Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.
  • 10 - Infrastructure can include roads, pathways, cycle ways, car parks, telecommunication and energy infrastructure, flood defences and agricultural infrastructure.
  • 11 - For the purposes of this policy ‘curtilage’ will mean the immediate, usually defined and enclosed area surrounding an existing or former dwelling house.

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