What is an AONB?
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an area of countryside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. Areas are designated in recognition of their national importance, by the relevant public body: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. In place of AONB, Scotland uses the similar national scenic area designation. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoy levels of protection from development similar to those of UK national parks, but unlike with national parks the responsible bodies do not have their own planning powers.
An AONB is a statutory designation stemming from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which applies to England and Wales. The designation means that local authorities have: “a permissive power to take action to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONBs in their areas.”
An AONB may straddle a number of local planning authority areas and as such, to ensure a consistent approach and continuity of advice, there is often an AONB Board that will be consulted with regards to planning applications. These applications will also be considered against the specific AONB policies in a local development plan. Some permitted development rights still exist in AONBs
There are 46 AONBs around the UK of which 33 are in England.
Where are these AONBs?
Within in England they exist at Arnside and Silverdale, Blackdown Hills, Cannock Chase, Chichester Harbour, Chilterns, Cornwall, Cotswolds, Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire, Downs, Dedham Vale, Dorset, East Devon, Forest of Bowland, High Weald, Howardian Hills, Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Kent Downs, Lincolnshire Wolds, Malvern Hills, Mendip Hills, Nidderdale, Norfolk Coast, North Devon, North Pennines, North Wessex Downs, Northumberland Coast, Quantock Hills, Shropshire Hills, Solway Coast, South Devon, Suffolk Coast and Heaths, Surrey Hills, Tamar Valley, and Wye Valley AONB / Dyffryn Gwy AoHNE (jointly in Wales).
Is my property in an AONB?
You will need to contact your local authority to establish this. Some will have online maps to enable you to look up the AONB areas. The Walking Club website has a useful map here to look up all AONBs.
Permitted development in AONBs?
Some changes of use are allowed in areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). These include Class A – Restaurant or Takeaway to Shop, Financial or Professional; Class G – Shops or Financial establishments to Mixed Use; Class L – small HMOs to dwellinghouses and vice versa; Class O – Offices to Residential Conversion; Class PA – premises in light industrial use to residential; Class R – agriculture building conversion to flexible commercial use