Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015
Strategic Plan Framework: Countryside and Coast Lagan Valley Regional Park
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) identifies the Lagan Valley Regional Park as a magnificent setting for the Metropolitan Area. The Strategic Planning Guidelines and measures for the Lagan Valley Regional Park are as follows:
- to recognise the need to conserve the natural environment (SPG-ENV 1) by:
- conserving and enhancing the strategic value of the Lagan Valley Regional Park (ENV 1.4).
The Lagan Valley Regional Park (LVRP) is located in the Lagan Corridor between and connecting the two cities of Belfast and Lisburn. The riverside and undulating landscapes, rich in heritage and biodiversity interest are easily accessible to large urban populations.
The Park covers 2120 hectares and consists of a shallow river valley, stretching for 13 miles along the Lagan from the heart of Belfast City at Governor’s Bridge to the former Union Locks in Lisburn City.
The objectives of the Park since its creation have been two-fold, to conserve the landscape quality and features of the Lagan Valley and to enhance recreation usage by the public. All proposals for development or redevelopment for compatible uses will be considered against the need to protect and where possible enhance the natural and man-made heritage of the Park and the conservation of its essential character.
The Lagan Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated under the Amenity Lands Act (NI) in 1965 and is identified on Map No. 3 – Lagan Valley Regional Park and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The LVRP Committee was established in 1967.
The Plan Proposals amend the Park boundary as identified in the Lagan Valley Regional Park Local Plan 2005 and the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001 to include those additional lands worthy of Park status and to remove those lands where the form of existing or proposed development is no longer consistent with the character of the Park. Most of the designated LVRP now lies within the BMA Green Belt, with small areas of the Park situated within the Metropolitan Development Limit and within Lisburn City.
Additional lands are included in the following locations:
- in the area between the M1 motorway and the Hillhall Road between Lisburn and Ballyaughlis;
- at the area around Rathmore Grammar School, St Anne’s Primary School and Hunterhouse College in Dunmurry; and
- at the Annadale Allotments, Belfast.
Lands are removed in the following locations:
- at Sequoia Park, Glenmore Manor and Glenmore House, Lambeg;
- at Minnowburn Mews, Castlereagh;
- at 6 and 7 Milltown Hill, Castlereagh; and
- to the rear of the Lagan Valley Hospital, Lisburn.
All of the Park including within the designated Lagan Valley Regional Park Nodes outside the Metropolitan Development Limit and Settlement Development Limits is designated as BMA Green Belt and prevailing regional policy will apply. The Park is designated within the relevant District Proposals as an Area of Constraint on Mineral Development and hence proposals for mineral development will not be acceptable within the Park (see Policy COU 8).
The LVRP has a varied landscape that reflects the natural landforms and the land uses that have progressively moulded it over time. The character of the Park outside of the Metropolitan Development Limit and Settlement Development Limits is varied. The river valley of the Lagan outside the urban areas of Belfast and Lisburn is predominantly natural in character and is characterised by a concentration of woodland which provides the undulating canopies and vast mixture of texture and tones which highlight the rolling countryside. Much of the Parks amenity landscapes are within the Historic Park, Gardens and demesnes such as Barnett Demesne, Wilmont, Lisburn Castle Gardens and Belvoir that have their own distinctive character. These areas have a historic designed landscape with a variable urban and recreational character, mature woodlands and grassland diversity. They became an attractive location for the early industrialists of the Belfast area whose successors built large houses and created the distinctive planted demesnes. The character of the rural area of the Park is one of settled countryside consisting of rolling landscape, fields and hedgerows, narrow lanes, farmsteads and small settlements.
The variety in character contributes to the richness and importance of the Park as a major regional recreational asset. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the landscape of the Park and the character of its constituent areas are not damaged by inappropriate development. The capacity of specific locations within the Park to absorb development will vary. In assessing development proposals, protection of the landscape quality and character of the Park will be an overriding consideration. Undergrounding services may be considered appropriate to protect the landscape with the AONB.
Within the Park 5 character areas are identified for information purposes as the basis for the identification of uses appropriate in each of the designated nodes. Details of these character areas are contained in the Countryside Assessment Technical Supplement.
Due to the linear nature of the Park there is no obvious location for a single interpretative centre for the entire area. As the LVRP is recognised as a major area of recreation for the Metropolitan Area, the Plan identifies a number of locations, distributed throughout the Park for the provision of tourism, recreation, education and interpretative facilities. Focusing the provision of facilities at key nodes will help to manage access to the Park, protect the overall landscape quality, and seek to ensure that new development is in keeping with the character of the area in which it is located. Key Site Requirements have been prepared for each node and these are included in the relevant District Proposals.
The nodes are designated in the relevant District Proposals at the following locations:
- Lockview Road, Stranmillis, Belfast;
- Clement Wilson Park, New Forge Entrance, Belfast;
- Belvoir Education Centre, Castlereagh;
- Belvoir Activity Centre, Castlereagh;
- Dub Lane, Upper Malone Road, Belfast;
- Malone House, Upper Malone, Belfast;
- Shaw’s’ Bridge, Belfast;
- Lady Dixon Park, Entrance 2, Belfast;
- Ballyskeagh, Lisburn;
- Glenmore, Lambeg, Lisburn;
- Island Civic Centre, Lisburn;
- Union Bridge, Lisburn; and
- Union Locks, Hillsborough Road, Lisburn.
While the majority of the nodes are located within the BMA Green Belt, several are located within the Metropolitan Development Limit and Lisburn City Settlement Development Limit.
District Councils and Government Departments have provided small-scale informal visitor and recreational facilities such as footpaths, viewpoints, seating and picnic areas throughout the Park and the Lagan Canal Towpath has been included within the national cycle network. Within identified nodes, the Department will continue to encourage additional provision to meet the requirements of visitors, providing the facilities are of an appropriate scale and nature.
On-site information is important to heighten awareness of the availability of facilities. To cater for this need, information boards, entry signs and other signposts have been erected at key locations. These assist easy access to the Park particularly at existing pedestrian access points, car parks and bus stops. They will continue to be encouraged within identified nodes.
Development proposals for uses other than recreational, tourist, interpretative and education facilities within Nodes, will be subject to prevailing regional policies and either Policy COU13 or Policy COU15 as relevant. These proposals will also be required to meet the stated Key Site Requirements for the relevant Nodes contained in the District Proposals.
Outside designated nodes, development proposals for recreational, tourist, interpretative and educational facilities will be determined in accordance with all relevant regional and Plan policies.
The designated Park boundary includes areas that lie inside the Metropolitan Development Limit and within Lisburn City Settlement Development Limit.
In addition approximately 1,900 people live within the villages and small settlements located within the LVRP. Within these settlements (Ballyaughlis, Ballylesson, Ballyskeagh, Drumbeg, Edenderry, Hillhall, Lambeg and Tullynacross) provision is made for a limited amount of development. The settlements of Hillhall, Ballyaughlis and Ballylesson are only partially contained within the Park boundary. These settlements act as small access centres to routes and features of interest while the other settlements within the Park act as service centres for visitors to the Park. These urban locations require balance with their location within the Park and the need to protect and where possible enhance its character. All development must therefore be associated with and blend sympathetically with the Park and not detract from its character landscape or native conservation value.
Areas of Village Character are defined for Drumbeg, Edenderry and Lambeg in order to protect their particular character. Proposals within these areas will be assessed in context of Policy UE 3. Pressure for new build, redevelopment or infill housing could threaten the traditional character of these areas hence development must be in sympathy with the character of the building/surroundings and provision made for the protection of trees and groups of trees with an important amenity function.