Areas of outstanding natural beauty

The following Planning practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Areas of outstanding natural beauty
  • What are AONBs?
  • Responsible authorities
  • The role of Natural England
  • Defra's powers
  • LPA's duties
  • Legislation and policy framework
  • Management plans
  • Determining planning applications in AONBs
  • Visibility of development in AONB may be significant
  • More...

Areas of outstanding natural beauty

STOP PRESS: This Practice Note is being reviewed in light of the new NPPF published on 20 July 2021.

What are AONBs?

Areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) are areas of countryside in England and Wales outside national parks which are designated in recognition of their significant landscape value. The primary purpose of AONB designation is 'to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape'.

Two secondary aims complement this purpose:

  1. to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside

  2. to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there

Responsible authorities

Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and local planning authorities (LPAs) all play a role in designating and enforcing AONBs.

The role of Natural England

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRWA 2000), Natural England has the power to:

  1. designate AONBs in England that are outside national parks and that are considered to have such natural beauty, it is desirable they are conserved and enhanced

  2. issue a variation order to change an existing AONB boundary

It also holds a duty to:

  1. give advice on developments taking place in an AONB

  2. take into account the conservation and enhancement of AONBs in its work

In addition to the statutory duties and powers, Natural England carries out further work to support AONBs. This includes:

  1. working with

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