Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Countryside: Landscape Character and Development Pressure
The Countryside Assessment of the Plan area included an analysis of development pressure throughout the countryside. That analysis together with the Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment and the Regional Development Strategy, (RDS), has informed proposals for the confirmation of existing Green Belt and Countryside Policy Area designations and for additional designation to offer enhanced protection against future development pressures.
The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment considers the peninsula’s landscape from Newtownards south to Portaferry, with the exception of the outer Ards coast, to be generally in good condition but suffering from loss of character in areas of open farmland, and from development out of scale with small clustered settlements. The pattern of countryside development pressure in the Ards Peninsula is one of individual dwellings along minor roads between recognised settlements, with substantial clusters at cross-roads. This is particularly noticeable south of Kirkubbin and Ballyhalbert, and between Greyabbey and Carrowdore.
The Landscape Character Assessment describes the Strangford Lough Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as sensitive to change increased by the high visibility of the north Lecale hills and surrounding lowlands from Strangford Lough. The analysis verifies the pressure in this area particularly on higher ground with views towards the Lough. The western coastal area of the Strangford Lough AONB is particularly vulnerable to changes, which may have an impact on its small scale, tranquil character. Pressure is particularly evident around Killinchy and Whiterock.
South of the existing Green Belt in Down District, development pressures have been intense, particularly so to the west and north of Downpatrick, where evidence supports the conclusion that pressures have been diverted most strongly into a band of countryside immediately outside the existing Green Belt. The pattern of pressure continues with less intensity southwards towards Newcastle, to the west and north of the Downpatrick-Newcastle road. The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment notes a proliferation in some areas of large modern bungalows, of various shapes and styles, along road frontages.
Initial examination of development patterns in the area between the existing Downpatrick Green Belt and the Lecale Countryside Policy Area suggests that pressures are less intense than elsewhere in Down District. The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment states that the Lecale has a relatively unspoilt and tranquil landscape, but one which is therefore sensitive to change. The landscape has an open character, often allowing extensive views within which development is often prominent. A significant increase in development would therefore be likely to harm the Lecale’s rural character.
The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment describes the condition of the landscape in the Tyrella Coastal Dunes Landscape Character Area as degraded by the spread of built development along the coastal road and landscape sensitivity as increased by the visibility of this low coastal strip from the south west. The pressure analysis suggests pressure for development along minor inland roads within easy reach of the coastal area.
Along the roads in the valleys and on hillsides on the northern edge of the Mourne Mountains in the vicinity of Kilcoo, the pressure analysis suggests continuing pressure for new housing which is adversely affecting rural character. The Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment refers to the sensitivity of this landscape, the proliferation of large modern dwellings and the abandonment of traditional cottages all as a threat to landscape character.