Independent Research into Housing in England’s AONBs Published

Tuesday 21st November 2017

Mendip Hills AONB welcomes publication of independent research into housing in England’s AONBs 2012-2017

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and the National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) has published an independent review that highlights the pressures of housing and the impacts on nationally protected landscapes. The review is based on data covering planning applications and approvals for housing development in and near to AONBs between 2012-2017.

National policy for AONBs centres on the need to conserve and enhance natural beauty, particularly in the execution of planning functions by public bodies. However, the Review shows that AONBs, particularly in the South East and South West, are facing unprecedented pressure from large-scale housing development.

Whilst major housing development within the Mendip Hills AONB boundaries is limited, it is important that relevant authorities ‘have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Mendip Hills AONB when discharging any function in relation to or affecting land within the AONB.’ Major housing development outside the boundaries of the AONB that has an impact on this nationally protected landscape are also covered by the ‘duty of regard’ to ensure that the special qualities that create the Mendip Hills AONB sense of place and identity are not compromised.

The NAAONB welcomes the publication of the Review and sees it as an opportunity for AONB Partnerships and Conservation Boards to work more collaboratively with developers, architects, government, local communities and Local Planning Authorities to help address local housing need in AONBs creatively.

Whilst agreeing that maintaining vibrant and diverse local communities is essential to the future of AONBs, NAAONB Chief Executive, Howard Davies suggests that housing provision can’t be considered in isolation. He says,
“AONBs are nationally important landscapes. However, they should not be set in aspic. They are living, working landscapes and as such appropriate sustainable development is essential. We can help with this. We are keen to support LPAs so that they can effectively consider the purpose of designation. Effective AONB planning and management provides a framework for meeting local housing needs without compromising landscape quality. We would like to see LPAs encouraged to develop strong AONB specific policies in their Local Plans which are upheld in decision making.

“We can help further. AONBs, using their power to convene, often bring together
appropriate parties and individuals to engage in meaningful conversation when considering development in AONBs. We will continue to do this. We will also continue to offer support at all stages of planning in AONBs by exploring better provision of business membership schemes, directories and design guidance references for architects and builders, advice and guidance for Planning Officers, and assistance to local communities with support for Community Led Housing schemes.
“We believe that, together, we can achieve the Secretary of State’s ambition to halt the deterioration of our environment and restore and enhance the UK’s outstanding natural beauty.”

Download the Full Report (PDF Download 5,286KB)