DCAN 8: Housing in Existing Urban Areas
Regional Development Strategy
2.2 The Regional Development Strategy provides a strategic planning context for planning policy and the preparation of development plans. It sets new directions to achieve amore sustainable pattern of development in the interests of future generations. The importance of development plans is recognised in terms of identifying suitable sites for housing taking into account land availability, access to public transport, and existing and proposed infrastructure both at regional and local level.
2.3 In order to encourage an urban renaissance and promote sustainable development, a larger share of residential development will need to be accommodated within existingurban areas. Within this context, the RDS recognises the benefits of building more housing in towns and cities, and sets a challenging regional target for the proportion of new housing to be accommodated in these locations. Over the past 25 years, the main trend in Northern Ireland has been the development of housing on greenfield sites, and during the 1990’s it was estimated that the provision of housing within existing urban areas was at a level of around 25% to 30%. The Strategy seeks to double that level of achievement setting an ambitious regional target of 60% for the period up to 2010.
2.4 The RDS recognises that encouraging development within the existing urban area offers many advantages including:
- bringing life and vitality back to urban communities;
- stimulating the process of regeneration by renewing the urban fabric;
- encouraging the re-use of buildings as a means of reducing dereliction;
- extending the range of housing choice;
- reinforcingublic transport services within towns;
- enabling residents to walk to local facilities;
- making the best use of existing infrastructure; and
- reducing the pressure for greenfi eld development.
2.5 Promoting imaginative and innovative forms of housing development within urban areas is also encouraged in the RDS in Strategic Planning Guideline HOU 5. This can involve promoting the densification of housing near to public transport nodes and corridors and urban centres. In established residential areas, harmonious housing is encouraged, together with an approach which is sensitive in design terms to the people in the existing neighbourhood, and to the local townscape character.
2.6 Therefore, while promoting a concerted housing drive within urban areas, the Strategy also recognises in HOU 4.2 that town cramming should be avoided. To this end, when assessing potential housing sites there is a need to:
- protect land for other purposes such as open space, employment and services;
- exercise particular sensitivity in areas of distinctive townscape character, in order to ensure that traditional character is not harmed; and
- consider public transport accessibility.
2.7 The RDS stresses that achieving an overall increase in town densities must not be interpreted as a mandate to force over-developed and unsympathetic housing schemes into established residential areas. Sensitivity is required when redeveloping existing houses and developing infill sites, and the Strategy concludes that the overriding objective has to be to avoid any significant erosion of the environmental quality, amenity and privacy enjoyed by existing residents.