What is an AONB?

An AONB stands for ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’ It is a designation given to a specific geographic area in the United Kingdom that is considered to have significant natural beauty and environmental significance.

AONBs are similar to National Parks in terms of their protected status and the level of conservation and management that is required to maintain their natural beauty. However, they are designated for landscapes that are not necessarily as wild or remote as those found in National Parks.

AONBs cover a wide range of landscapes, from rugged coastlines and moorlands to rolling hills and valleys, and they often include important habitats for wildlife and plants. The purpose of designating an AONB is to protect and enhance its natural beauty, while also supporting the local economy and communities that rely on the area for their livelihoods.


Who controls development in an AONB?

In an AONB, the local planning authority is responsible for controlling development. They have a duty to ensure that any proposed development in the AONB is in line with the statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area. This means that any development must be carefully considered and must not harm the environment or detract from the area’s overall beauty.

Local planning authorities will typically have policies and guidelines in place that are specific to the AONB, which consider the area’s unique character and sensitivity. These policies will help to guide development and ensure that any proposed development is appropriate and sustainable.

It’s worth noting that while the local planning authority has the final say on whether a development can go ahead, they will also consult with other bodies such as the AONB management team, the relevant national body (see below)*, and the local community to ensure that all relevant factors are considered before making a decision.

There are 46 AONBs around the UK of which 33 are in England.


*National bodies in the UK influencing AONB development

In the UK, there are several national bodies that have an influence in the development of an AONB. However, unlike National Parks, they lack their own direct planning powers. These bodies work to ensure that development in these areas is sustainable and in line with the statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area. Here are some of the main national bodies that aim to influence AONB conservation in different parts of the UK:

  1. Natural England is a non-departmental public body that works to conserve and enhance the natural environment of England. It provides advice to local planning authorities and other bodies on AONB management and it has the power to designate new AONBs.
  2. NatureScot (Scottish Gaelic: NàdarAlba) (Previously Scottish Natural Heritage) is a public body that works to promote the conservation and enjoyment of Scotland’s natural heritage. It advises local authorities and other bodies on the management and development of National Scenic Areas (NSAs), which are broadly equivalent to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  3. Natural Resources Wales is a Welsh government-sponsored body responsible for the management of natural resources in Wales. It provides advice on AONB management to local authorities and other organisations in Wales.
  4. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is responsible for managing the natural environment in Northern Ireland. It provides advice on AONB management to local authorities and other organisations in Northern Ireland.
  5. The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) is a charity that represents all of the AONBs in the UK. It works to promote and support the conservation and enhancement of AONBs, and it provides advice and guidance to local authorities, AONB partnerships, and other organisations involved in AONB management.


Do permitted developments apply in an AONB?

Permitted development rights do apply in AONBs, but they are more restricted than in other areas. Permitted development rights allow certain types of development to be carried out without the need for planning permission. However, in AONBs, the permitted development rights are limited to ensure that any development does not harm the natural beauty or environmental significance of the area.

For example, in AONBs, permitted development rights for domestic extensions are more restricted than in other areas and planning permission may be required even for minor works. Additionally, permitted development rights for agricultural buildings and operations are more restricted in AONBs and certain types of development may require planning permission even if they would be permitted elsewhere.

It’s worth noting that any development in an AONB must still comply with all relevant planning policies and guidelines, including those specific to the AONB. Local planning authorities will consider the impact of any proposed development on the natural environment and will carefully consider whether the development is in line with the statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area.


How to find out if your property is in an AONB

To find out if your house is located within an AONB, you can check with your local planning authority. They will be able to provide you with information on whether your property is located within an AONB and what restrictions may apply to any proposed development.

You can view a map of AONBs in the UK on the Defra Magic map (turn on Designations – Statutory). However, it’s important to note that their information is provided for general guidance only and you should still confirm with your local planning authority whether your property is actually located within an AONB.


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