Ards and Down Area Plan 2015
Policy Context: Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS), which was formulated by the Assembly in September 2001, sets out a dynamic strategic spatial planning framework for Northern Ireland to guide physical development within the region until 2025 and it provides an overarching strategic framework for development plans.
The RDS seeks to promote a balanced distribution of development to facilitate economic growth and competitiveness and to distribute the benefits of economic opportunity throughout the Region. The objective is to provide a basis for strengthening the regional economy, for reducing social disadvantage and for the sustainable planning of future development.
The overall aim of the RDS for rural Northern Ireland which, in the context of the RDS includes the Plan area, is “to develop an attractive and prosperous rural area, based on a balanced and integrated approach to the development of town, village and countryside, contributing to the overall well-being of the Region as a whole. The Ards and Down Area Plan 2015 will contribute to the implementation of the RDS and to the achievement of its principles and objectives.
This will be achieved by action taken on the following Strategic Objectives and supporting Strategic Planning Guidelines for Rural Northern Ireland:
- Supporting the development of a strong, diversified and competitive rural economy served by the Regional Strategic Transport Network;
C8: SPG-RNI 1: To maintain a working countryside with a strong mixed use rural economy;
- Developing a living and working countryside which recognises the unique rural character of the Region and contributes to a sense of belonging in local rural areas;
C8: SPG-RNI 2 & C12:SPG-RNI: To create and sustain a living countryside with a high quality of life for all its residents;
- Promoting the continuing renewal and revitalisation of towns and villages in Rural Northern Ireland;
C8: SPG-RNI 3: To support the network of service centres based on main towns, small towns and villages in rural communities throughout the North;
- Improving the accessibility of the rural community to employment, services and regional amenities;
C8: SPG-RNI 4: To create an accessible countryside with a responsive transport network that meets the needs of the rural community;
- Managing and enhancing the natural and built heritage in rural areas, including the coast, and the special character, beuty and interest of designated features and landscapes within rural communities throughout the North;
C8: SPG-RNI 5: To create and sustain an attractive and unique rural environment in the interests of the rural community and the region as a whole;.
The approach set out in these guidelines is to “conserve and enhance the environment, whilst improving the quality of life of the rural communities and developing the rural economy”.
The policies and proposals of this Plan are consistent with these regional objectives and guidelines and with the approach to the planning of growth in rural areas, which they represent.
The RDS is consistent with the integrated approach of the European Spatial Development Perspective. Account is also taken of the UK shared framework for sustainable development "One Future - Different Paths" which was launched in March 2005 to provide a consistent approach and focus across the UK. It is supported by separate strategies for each administration. "A Sustainable Development Strategy for NI: First Steps towards Sustainability" was launched in May 2006 and is supported by an implementation plan.
The European Union and the United Kingdom have embraced the principle of sustainable development based on stewardship of the environment and it has widened the concept to embrace economic and social considerations. At the heart of the RDS is the principle of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come, by seeking to meet the four objectives of sustainable development.
- social progress that meets the needs of everyone;
- effective protection of the environment;
- prudent use of natural resources; and
- maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.
The objectives of sustainable development embody the concept of conserving biodiversity, which is the total variety of all living things. Development plans can therefore contribute to biodiversity by ensuring that development is sustainable and through implementation of SPG-ENV 1: To conserve the natural environment.
In October 2000, the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group published their Recommendations to Government for a Biodiversity Strategy containing 76 recommendations on how government and private interests might tackle the main issues and threats to biodiversity in Northern Ireland. Habitats and species for priority action have also been identified. The Department accepted those recommendations and published the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy in August 2002.
The policies and proposals in this Plan have been subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This assessment has sought to anticipate and evaluate the environmental, social and economic consequences of the Plan, and to minimise any potentially negative effects.