Northern Ireland Planning Service

Northern Area Plan 2016
Strategic Plan Framework: Tourism Regional Policy Context

The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) emphasises the need to balance tourism development opportunities within the Region with conserving its natural, built and cultural assets. It specifically identifies the Giant’s Causeway as a key asset to be protected. It identifies Portrush, Portstewart and Ballycastle as traditional seaside resorts where tourism and leisure should be strengthened and diversified. The RDS also identifies the Antrim Coast Road as a key regional touring opportunity where supporting infrastructure should be facilitated. The RDS identifies the general areas of Londonderry/Lough Foyle, Giant’s Causeway/North Coast, and the Antrim Coast and Glens as being major tourism development opportunities. This would allow for a cluster of tourism-related activities centred on these Strategic Natural Resources, and which should be related to a tourism gateway town, accessible to public transport and to achieve a sustainable outcome.
Operational planning policies guiding tourist developments, protection of tourist assets, the provision of tourist accommodation, camping and caravan facilities and signage are presently provided by the tourism section of the Rural Strategy. Work has commenced on a Planning Policy Statement that will replace these policies. Prior to its completion the Department considers there is an urgent need to update operational planning policy in the context of the development pressures that are threatening vulnerable landscapes within the Plan area.
The tourism industry offers economic reward and social benefits. Developing its potential, however, requires that development should not be at the expense of the natural and built environment on which the industry relies and in which local people live. Prevailing regional planning policy provides for the protection of tourism assets, and through Countryside Policy Area designations, for the protection of rural character and visual amenity in areas of landscape quality.
The ‘Natural Resource Rural Tourism’ administered by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), in partnership with the DoE’s Environment and Heritage Service and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is an initiative which may facilitate small scale tourist development.
The NITB, in its publication ‘Tourism in Northern Ireland – A Sustainable Approach ’, sets out the principles of sustainable tourism and the basis for its assessment of proposals for tourism development.
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