In 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review into the protection of important landscapes within England. This looked specifically at landscapes within our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and whether the current method of protection works and if any improvements could be made. Earlier this month the Government finally published their long-awaited response to the original report.

North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

It is proposed that new powers are given to AONBs to protect and shape development in their regions. It has been suggested that the AONB management board’s are given statutory consultee status for development management. They will have input into all planning applications that require Environmental Impact Assessments or are classed as nationally significant infrastructure projects.

The report suggests that designated landscapes form a national partnership to improve contributions to national nature targets, help to meet the Government’s goal of protecting 30% of the country for nature by 2030 as part of a collaborative and joint working partnership. It has been suggested that Natural England take on a greater role on the correct management and protection of these landscapes.

The formation of the partnerships should seek to generate additional private income through green finance initiatives, joint funding bids, they should champion protected landscapes, form development partnerships and programmes with commercial partners, create opportunities to provide training and development, and share knowledge throughout the partnership.

It is also suggested that a balanced planning exercise is carried out differently in protected landscapes. This is to ensure that the special qualities are meaningfully protected within these landscapes. This aligns the reforms with the recent version of the NPPF and The Environment Act 2021. Planning balance will need careful consideration to ensure that no development causes harm or loss to these designated landscapes.

Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

It will be interesting to see how the proposed changes are implemented and what these means for both protection of these valued landscapes but also sustainable development in or close to these designated landscapes. It is likely that developments which are beyond this designation will have to demonstrate that they do not cause harm to the special qualities of these protected landscapes.