Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Policy Framework: Recreation and Open Space
Provision of open space and recreation facilities throughout the Plan area is the statutory responsibility of Ards Borough Council and Down District Council. Other public agencies such as the Departments of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development and Education, the Sports Council for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive also provide and manage a variety of publicly accessible recreation facilities and open space.
Sports and recreational facilities are also provided by various private organisations, including bowling, cricket, tennis, hockey, gaelic football, golf, rugby and soccer clubs. School playing fields have the potential for dual use by the public outside school hours.
The natural resources of the Plan area, such as Strangford Lough and the Mourne mountains, also provide a wealth of opportunities for active outdoor pursuits such as sailing, angling, and walking.
The Plan area contains a variety of informal recreational open space, particularly parkland. Castlewellan Forest Park and Scrabo Country Park are notable examples. Informal recreation facilities also exist in association with the natural resources of the area such as rivers, canals, lakes, heritage sites, and disused railway tracks. Tyrella Beach and Murlough Nature Reserve are popular examples. Opportunities for cultural recreation are provided at places like Mount Stewart and Castleward, and other National Trust properties, as well as the Department’s historic monuments.
Both Ards Borough Council and Down District Council are currently liaising with SUSTRANS, a national cycling organisation, with a view to providing, where possible, a network of leisure cycle routes.
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy, (RDS), aims to promote the important link between environment, health and well being and places an emphasis on supporting healthy lifestyles and the promotion of health in the community.
Strategic Planning Guideline ENV 6 of the RDS is to create healthier living environments and to support healthy lifestyles. A particular aspect of this policy is to encourage the protection and enhancement of open spaces and playing facilities for the long term benefit of the whole community and to recognise the value to health and well being of greenery, including community greenways, woodlands and landscape.
Strategic Planning Guideline ENV 7 of the RDS is to facilitate access to a range of opportunities for recreational and cultural facilities. A particular aspect of this policy is to prevent town cramming and seek the provision of open space, playing facilities, woodland and landscaping within easy walking reach of homes, for physical activity, rest and leisure use. This is especially important in densely populated and disadvantaged communities and in new developments. The policy also aims to enhance the range of sports and leisure facilities enabling accessibility by all citizens.
Policy RNI 1.5 of the RDS is to further develop the potential for countryside recreation in an environmentally sensitive way: One particular approach identified is to enhance the range of opportunities for leisure in the countryside based around the use of land.
The Department’s regional planning policies for recreation and open space are currently set out in Planning Policy Statement 8, (PPS 8): Open Space, Sport and Outdoor Recreation, published in February 2004.
Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS 7): Quality Residential Environments requires adequate provision for public and for private open space in new residential developments.
Throughout the Plan area it is important that a network of open spaces be retained within settlements in order to meet the needs of local communities, for children’s play and other forms of active and passive recreation. Such areas also contribute to the visual quality and character of settlements and provide valuable green spaces for wildlife.
The Department considers it necessary to safeguard existing open space within settlements from competing uses, for once built upon the value and amenity of such areas are almost certainly lost to the community forever. These areas are protected against inappropriate uses by the policy provisions of PPS 8. Some open spaces have been identified as Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPAs) within which development proposals will also be subject to Policy CON 2 of the Plan.
Existing recreational open spaces and amenity land within the major settlements and the relevant villages throughout Ards and Down are identified on the settlement maps in Volumes 2 and 3 of the Plan. Where there is a commitment to provide open space by an enabling authority, lands have been identified within some of the urban areas for proposed open space, to meet future demand. Open space proposals are identified in Volumes 2 and 3 of the Plan.
Smaller open spaces, such as children's play areas and kick-about areas, within existing housing developments have not generally been identified for reasons of scale. The safeguarding policy within PPS 8 however will apply equally to all existing areas of recreation and open space, whether identified or not.
Open space areas are complemented by walkways, river corridors, cycle ways and several established community woodlands throughout the Plan area.
Lands ideally suited for amenity, recreation and open space as part of future housing developments have also been identified in some larger settlements and are indicated on the relevant settlement maps. Criteria for their development are provided as part of the Key Design Considerations for the zoned housing lands.