Land is a finite resource, under strain from ever-increasing societal demands, with a number of major global issues having a marked impact on how land is used in Northern Ireland.
Land is one of Northern Ireland’s most important assets, providing the goods and services upon which human existence depends, and the source of future societal wellbeing and prosperity.
This report reviews the contributions that land makes to the economic and social fabric of Northern Ireland and the realisation of sustainable development and the principle pressures placed on the overall resource. Compilation of this report was informed by a range of stakeholder perspectives, and from detailed observation of the development of the Scottish Land Use Strategy. The principal recommendation of the review is to progress the planning, development and implementation of a Land Strategy for Northern Ireland by 2016. The vision of such a strategy would be for land and landscapes to be managed for the benefit of people’s well-being and prosperity, respecting the views of communities, groups and individuals, striving for environmental excellence, and making best use of its multi-functionality. Such a strategy would sit above the suite of sectoral policies, and aim to provide a framework to manage conflicting policy priorities and balance competing demands on land.
However, a Land Strategy cannot, and should not, determine actual land use in specific localities; this should be informed locally by communities, groups and individuals. Rather, the nature of the strategy set out in this report is one which provides an overarching framework to ensure that local and regional policy and decisionmaking around land contributes to fulfilling the strategic needs of Northern Ireland. It also comprises a set of guiding principles which accord with the three tenets of sustainability and provide an overall context for decisionmaking on the use of land, irrespective of the level at which decisions are made.
A Land Strategy would provide strategic guidance to assist in planning for, and managing, the ongoing pressures for change. It should be developed on a cross-Departmental basis and sit above the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) in the existing hierarchy of Northern Ireland Government strategies, to help align public and private aspirations for economic and societal well-being and prosperity, through the strategic use of land.
The successful implementation of the Land Strategy would contribute to ensuring that the land base in Northern Ireland is maintained and enhanced to provide continued and improved benefits to society both now and in the future.