Cookstown Area Plan 2010
Policy Framework: Countryside
The rural area of Cookstown District comprises a number of rich and diverse landscapes that have been moulded and modified by thousands of years of man's presence and a long established agricultural heritage.
The local rural economy remains heavily dependent on agriculture and component industries. This economic base faces major challenges arising from the trade liberalisation, market globalisation, technological change and changes in EU policy through CAP reform and Agenda 2000.
These external pressures for change, inter alia, can be accommodated positively through agricultural diversification and the development of small scale rural enterprises. This response is even more critical in disadvantaged areas experiencing lower economic activity rates and higher rates of long term unemployment.
In the context of regional planning policy, the Plan enables the rural community to adjust to these changes by facilitating rural regeneration through the development of sustainable enterprises in appropriate locations.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the countryside will continue to change over time, the Department also considers that it is necessary to operate strict planning controls within certain countryside areas where they are vulnerable to development pressure or are environmentally sensitive.
Regional Planning Context
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) aims to develop an attractive and prosperous rural area, based on a balanced and integrated approach to the development of town, village and countryside, in order to sustain a strong and vibrant rural community, contributing to the overall well-being of the Region as a whole.
This will be achieved by:
- supporting the development of a strong, diversified and competitive rural economy served by the Regional Strategic Transportation Network;
- 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;
- promoting the continuing renewal and revitalisation of towns and villages in Rural Northern Ireland;
- improving the accessibility of the rural community to employment, services and regional amenities; and
- managing and enhancing the natural and built heritage in rural areas.
The Department's regional planning policies that apply in the countryside of Cookstown District are currently set out in various Planning Policy Statements and A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland (the Rural Strategy). Policies for nature conservation and the archaeological and built heritage, and which address access considerations, shops, rural enterprises and other industrial projects in the countryside are set out in the PPSs. The Rural Strategy contains a range of policies for a number of development types including agriculture, minerals, recreation, tourism development and houses in the countryside. In addition, there are specific policies for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belts and Countryside Policy Areas. The Rural Strategy also provides the framework for considering development proposals within the countryside and establishes rural design principles.
Supplementary design guidance is provided within A Design Guide for Rural Northern Ireland.
The strategic objectives of Green Belt designation are:
- to prevent the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
- to prevent neighbouring settlements from merging;
- to safeguard the surrounding countryside;
- to protect the setting of settlements; and
- to assist in urban regeneration.
The Department considers that the existing Cookstown Green Belt, and that portion of the Dungannon Green Belt in the townlands of Tullagh More and Tullagh Beg in the south of the District, have met the above objectives and have provided an effective control over development within these countryside areas. The Department considers it appropriate and necessary to maintain strict planning control in these areas where development pressure is likely to be greatest. Consequently, Green Belts are designated for these areas, subject to some minor amendments, and their boundaries are identified on the District and Settlement Maps.
The Department considers it necessary to protect the primarily rural landscapes of the Sperrins and the Lough Neagh shoreline and its environs.
The Sperrin CPA
The upland area around Lough Fea and Beaghmore comprises extensive blanket bog, small rounded loughs and the conifer plantations of Davagh Forest. This area, lying within the Sperrin AONB, is notable not only for its scenic quality but also its nature conservation and archaeological interests, which include Lough Fea, Teal Lough and Slaghtfreeden Bogs.
Relatively small elements in the landscape, such as electricity lines or a single dwelling, are visible over large distances. Consequently, although there is comparatively low pressure for development within the area, the impact of buildings and other structures can have disproportionate effects on the character, quality and appearance of the landscape and detract from its sense of wilderness. A Countryside Policy Area is, therefore, designated to protect this vulnerable and unique environment and is identified on the District Map and relevant Settlement Maps.
The Lough Shore CPA
This is a closely settled area of lowland on the western shores of Lough Neagh, lying within the rural wards of The Loup, Ardboe and Killycolpy. A strong sense of community, based on close kinship ties and a reliance on local employment in agriculture and fishing, has sustained and consolidated growth within this area.
There has been significant pressure for individual dwellings in the countryside beyond the several small villages located within the area. This has resulted in the erosion of rural character through the build-up of clusters of suburban-style dwellings and unsightly ribbon development along the B161/B160 shore road from Ballyronan southwards to the boundary with Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough and on more minor roads including the B73 Battery Road.
The Department considers that further ribbon development along these roads will serve only to devalue and further erode the rural character and landscape quality of the area. In addition, it is considered that the continued build-up of development closer to Lough Neagh would not only be damaging to the character and appearance of this area, but would also have significant adverse effects on the important nature conservation interests of the Lough and its shoreline.
A Countryside Policy Area is, therefore, designated in order to protect the amenity of the overall Lough Neagh shore area. This encompasses the Lough Neagh shoreline and its environs, and the land on either side of the B161/160 and the B73. The boundaries of this CPA are identified on the District and relevant Settlement Maps.