Page 26 - Rural Housing Association Design Guide
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Design guide for social housing in rural Northern Ireland Considering the place: Rural Northern Ireland The significance of recent changes The countryside in the countryside The past generation has seen profound social, economic and physical change in the countryside as a result of:- The decline of employment in agriculture and changes in agricultural practice with larger farms, larger fields, less • hedgerows and larger modern agricultural buildings, significantly altering the rural landscape; • IT/ICT improvements, yet lagging well behind urban areas; • Change of rural planning policy, from restrictive to permissive to very restrictive and back to something in between; Rural settlements All policies have however resulted in significant private sector house building of “one off” houses, changing the appearance and character of rural areas; House building, particularly for public rental, drove the early Post War expansion of many small towns and villages that • A steady increase in rural mobility with a greater ability and propensity to travel further as part of the daily routine; had been static for over a century, with the local Councils, the Housing Trust and then the Housing Executive particular- • The continued decline of rural services and facilities, e.g. the closure of many primary schools and most post offices; ly active. With increased private house building it has been the small settlements that have experienced the greatest • Relatively few social houses built in the countryside outside the larger villages; growth in the Region, contrasting with more modest growth in the main towns and decline of the population of Belfast. • Growing concerns and actions related to environmental issues, with rising standards as directed from Europe. In the period from 1971 to 2008, the population of the:- The commuter belt around Greater Belfast has spread in the past 30 years from the immediate vicinity of the city to now • “Intermediate settlements”, with 2,500 to 4,500 residents more than doubled to 67,000 and include the greater part of counties Down and Antrim and parts of counties Armagh, Tyrone and Derry. The impact of • Villages with 1,000 to 2,500 residents more than doubled to 76,000. the new rural dwellers here is most pronounced, and is also evident around every good sized town in the Region. In the more remote, rural communities of South Down, North Antrim, mid Derry and much of Tyrone and Fermanagh, however, Of the 69 small settlements of the region, with between 1,000 and 4,500 residents:- the impact of the inward move of outsiders is less pronounced and less evident. Here the strength and vitality of many • 30 now primarily function as “dormitory” settlements with almost all their residents in employment elsewhere, either rural communities remains largely undiluted. These places are often greatly enriched by the strength and vitality of the commuting to nearby towns or to Greater Belfast, continuing community life of rural parishes, with its infrastructure of schools, sports clubs and churches. Paradoxically it is • 26 have a substantial service role for their surrounding communities, often in the more remote communities where rural life remains most vibrant and the ties of kith and kin most valued. • 3 have a “working” character with considerable local employment, and • 10 are distinctive coastal settlements. In rural communities there remains a deep attachment to land, place and community. Families often have lived at the same place for many generations and have extensive kinship and friendship networks. Their ancestors have toiled on the In contrast in 1971, most of these settlements had a very different character with over half functioning primarily as service land and created the local landscape. Typically there is an abiding sense of being part of the community, which means centres for the surrounding countryside. Character has been damaged by their rapid expansion due to a wave of new there is often a strong desire to stay in the locality, even if employment is elsewhere. This has not always been acknowl- residents who typically worked elsewhere and often only had loose, local, economic and social connections. It has edged by either planning or social housing policy. In this context the role of rural social housing has wider benefits than mainly been the “commuting villages” that have increased most rapidly in size, often dominated by generic and repeti- just meeting housing need, as the occupants contribute considerably to sustaining and nourishing rural community life tive social housing or “suburban” style private dwellings, without due regard either to context or local village identity. and the associated social and economic infrastructure. The once small coastal settlement of Castlerock, Co.L’Derry, has experienced significant and somewhat damaging expansion with suburban designed/styled private and social housing in the past 40 years. 26 27
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