Magherafelt Area Plan 2015
Strategic Plan Framework: Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
Agriculture is the predominant land use within the District and employed 2,165 people on 1,222 holdings in 2010. Approximately 76% of farms in the District are involved in cattle and sheep farming. Dairy farming is also important with 141 holdings. The District currently has one of the lowest number of farms producing cereals, general crops or involved in horticulture in Northern Ireland occupying only 5% of the total holdings, whereas it has one of the highest numbers of mixed farms.
Farm size within the District tends to be small with 78% of farms classed as very small by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD (NI) under European standards and only 4% described as large.
Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) are areas where the natural characteristics, including geology, altitude and climate, make it difficult for farmers to compete. However, within these areas, agriculture is the main factor shaping and maintaining valuable landscapes and habitats. Support is paid to farmers in LFAs so that society can continue to enjoy these benefits. LFAs are divided into Disadvantaged and Severely Disadvantaged Areas. 72% of farms in the District fall within LFAs and 32% are categorised as Severely Disadvantaged Areas.
Forestry operations within the District are carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Forest Service. Approximately 1,088 hectares are publicly managed woodland.
Forest Service also assists in the planting and management of privately owned woodlands, including Council owned woodland, through the payment of grants and provision of advice. Establishing new woodland on Council owned land is an inexpensive way of restoring or maintaining the quality of the landscape, whilst contributing to wider Council goals of community development, economic regeneration, maintaining and enhancing biodiversity and wood production.
A Community Woodland has been established at Drumlamph by the Woodland Trust in partnership with local communities as part of the “Woods on Your Doorstep” project which began in 1996 with grant assistance from Forest Service and the Millennium Commission.
Community woodlands are intended to mark the millennium and will provide a source of informal recreation, beauty, tranquillity, and quiet enjoyment for local people. The sites will also increase people’s awareness of woodland, contribute to woodland biodiversity and increase the area of new native woodland. The Woodland Trust provides and maintains paths, gates and similar facilities for public access.
Lough Neagh supports a substantial commercial fishery, mainly for eels.
The majority of the fishing rights to most rivers in the District are owned by The Honourable the Irish Society, based at Cutts House, Coleraine. These rights are sub leased to a number of angling clubs in the area and most recreational game angling takes place on waters controlled by these clubs, in particular the Moyola and Clady Rivers, and specific stretches of the Lower Bann. These rivers all sustain good runs of salmon and trout and are attractive to visiting anglers.
Lough Beg and the River Bann contain good coarse fish stocks, mainly pike, roach and bream which attract significant angling tourists to the area.
Aquaculture within the District is limited to a small number of rainbow trout farms, which supply fish either directly to the wholesale market or for restocking angling waters. The Moyola angling club operates a salmon hatchery near Draperstown to enhance juvenile stocks in the river.
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) seeks to maintain a working countryside with a strong mixed-use rural economy. It also seeks to create and sustain an attractive and unique rural environment in the interests of the rural community and the Region as a whole.
PPS 21 – Sustainable Development in the Countryside and the Rural Strategy contains current regional planning policies for agricultural and forestry development, agricultural diversification and community woodlands.