Belfast Telegraph

New Area Plan an economic boost for Banbridge, Newry and Mourne – Durkan

Stormont Executive press release - Department of the Environment

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has launched a new plan which will boost balanced growth, development and employment in Banbridge, Newry and Mourne.

The Banbridge/Newry & Mourne Area Plan identifies land for specific uses that will help the economy and provide more certainty in the planning process for people living in these areas. It will also provide a firm foundation for Councils to formulate their own plans when the planning function transfers to them after the Reform of Local Government in 2015.

Highlights of the Plan:

· 448 hectares of land identified for housing, including social housing. This will mean that local housing needs can continue to be met whilst providing a greater choice of sites. The standard of new housing development will be improved with clear guidance on what is expected, including higher design standards and better paths for cycling and walking;

· 220 hectares of land to enhance economic development with land zoned for industrial, storage and distribution uses. Land zoned in this way will make these kinds of development more attractive to potential investors as well as creating job opportunities;

· 80 hectares of land ear-marked for mixed use development sites and town centres. This will promote the importance of Banbridge Town and Newry City Centre as main hubs, encouraging population and economic growth and helping promote vibrant town centres by day and night, whilst building on the strength of Belfast-Dublin transport links;

· Warrenpoint’s role as a major Port will be promoted with sufficient land for industrial expansion and housing;

· The unique heritage and character of towns and villages will be protected with controls on demolition and development introduced;

· New development will be balanced against the need to protect the natural and built heritage to enhance the area’s unique countryside and coastal areas surrounding the Mourne Mountains. 

Mark H Durkan said: “This Plan will bring many benefits to the Banbridge, Newry and Mourne areas. Zoning our land to maximise economic development and new housing, developing Newry and Banbridge further as vibrant hubs, and facilitating the expansion of Warrenpoint Port, will certainly boost the area.

“The Area Plan will also provide a firm foundation for Councils to formulate their own future plans. The majority of planning powers will transfer to local Councils in April 2015 which will provide the new Councils with the responsibility for preparing a local plan for their area for the first time in over 40 years. It will also allow greater community and public involvement. 

“This Plan is not something we are imposing on the area. There has been a good partnership approach, bringing together government departments, councils and the local community working together. What I and DOE are about is creating a better environment and a stronger economy and this plan will certainly help do that.

“I am aware that work on this Plan commenced in 2000. This shows that whilst much good work has been done to reform the planning system there is still more to be done. I will continue to bring forward proposals to make the planning system faster, more focused on delivering development and more flexible and responsive to change.” 

Notes to editors:

1. The Plan identifies approximately 153 hectares of land for housing in the towns and villages of Banbridge District and 295 hectares for Newry and Mourne District over the Plan period. In addition 50 hectares of land in Banbridge District and 170 hectares in Newry and Mourne have been zoned for economic development uses complemented by 43 and 37 hectares for Mixed Use/Development in the respective districts.

2. The Plan recognises the importance of the Districts’ landscapes including the Mournes and the Ring of Gullion Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The High Mournes and parts of Ring of Gullion are designated as Special Countryside Areas. Local Landscape Policy Areas are also designated within and adjacent to settlements in order to highlight locally significant areas of landscape quality or amenity value. Other areas of conservation interest, both natural and manmade are protected through the designation of Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance and Areas of Townscape Character.

3. Several transportation schemes involving upgrades to existing roads and new road linkages are documented in the respective volumes of the District proposals. A Southern Relief Road for Newry is proposed but a preferred alignment has not yet been identified. 

4. The adoption of the Banbridge Newry and Mourne Area Plan follows the Department’s consideration of the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) Report of the Independent Examination held during 2009 and 2010 to consider objections to the Draft Plan which was published on the Department’s website on 6 June 2012. 

5. The Department is also publishing along with Plan, an Adoption Statement setting out the Department’s consideration of the recommendations contained in the Report, the Habitats Regulations Assessment and the Equality Impact Assessment. 

6. BNMAP is one of the last three plans, including BMAP and the Northern Area Plan, to be adopted before planning functions transfer to local councils in May 2015.

7. The Plan and all supporting documents can be accessed at the Department’s website from 9:00am Friday, 4 October at: http://www.planningni.gov.uk/bnm_2015 or purchased from the Southern Area Planning Office , Marlborough House, Central Way, Craigavon BT 64 1AD.

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