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Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
Regional Planning Policies: Policy DES 1 Countryside Assessments

Policy DES 1 Countryside Assessments
The provisions of PPS 21 will take precedence over this policy (insofar as it relates to Green Belts and Countryside Policy Areas).
To carry out Countryside Assessments as part of the preparation of development plans.
Northern Ireland is blessed with a rich diversity of countryside. The distinctive character is dependent on the combination of the many different elements of the natural and man-made landscape. A quality countryside is a very important resource and should be highly valued. It contributes significantly to the identity of rural Northern Ireland and is a source of enjoyment and inspiration. A high priority will be given to its conservation and enhancement.
The Department proposes to carry out Countryside Assessments as part of the development plan-making process. These assessments will be an essential foundation for the environmental appraisal of lands being considered for development within towns and villages and will help to highlight the opportunities for, or constraints on, that development. They will also contribute to site development briefs and identify features worthy of retention or protection. The District Councils will have an important consultative role in relation to the preparation and use of the Countryside Assessments.
Countryside Assessments will be concerned with topography, landscape and settlement including among other things landform, elevation, aspect, vegetation, wildlife habitats, archaeological and historic features, and buildings. They will describe the particular characteristics and features of significance, to allow subdivision of the countryside into areas of broadly similar character. Each assessment will identify the forms of development traditional and appropriate to particular countryside areas. It will also identify the capacity of the landscape, within each area, to absorb further development and the manner in which such development might best be integrated into the particular landscape setting.
The assessments will assist in defining:
  • the planned limits of development of towns and villages;
  • the opportunities and constraints imposed on development by the character and features of the landscape within these planned limits;
  • the urban fringe and the potential for restoration or enhancement of degraded landscapes;
  • areas of countryside subject to, or likely to be subject to, excessive development pressure, relative to the capacity of their landscapes to absorb development and where loss of rural character would result;
  • areas of special landscape quality, or specific locations of national or regional significance, where any development would be undesirable because of its adverse effect;
  • areas of countryside where rural character is not under threat from excessive development pressure and where the landscape has capacity to absorb more development without loss of character.
Areas identified as under threat from excessive or inappropriate development will be designated as Green Belts or Countryside Policy Areas through the development plan system. The relevant regional development control policies will apply to each area - see policies GB/CPA 1, GB/CPA 2, GB/CPA 3, GB/CPA 4. Additional local policies may be drafted, in the development plan, to amplify the regional policies on matters specific to the local circumstances of particular countryside areas.
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