Photo AONB unit-Cheddar Walkers are Welcome Launch

Annual Review 2015 – 2016

Welcome to the Annual Review 2015-16 on delivery of the statutory AONB Management Plan 2014-19 adopted by the five local authorities.

Ensuring that the AONBs special qualities are recognised and taken into account in decision making has continued to be a key role for the AONB Partnership. Further work has been undertaken to increase understanding and appreciation of the special qualities with regard to their sensitivity to change and their significance to people’s appreciation and enjoyment of the landscape.

The Planning Event, held in February 2016, provided the opportunity to make Planning Officers aware of the special qualities. The event was an effective way of showing officers how planning decision making could conserve and enhance the Special Qualities and looked at many examples out in the field. It also provided the opportunity for planners to visit key viewpoints, to experience views and viewshafts in and out of the AONB and to appreciate the scope of the AONB’s setting.

Work supporting the Chew Valley Neighbourhood Plan and the Cheddar Neighbourhood Plan provided the opportunity to raise awareness of the special qualities with the communities living in and around the AONB. In the Chew Valley area the analysis of landform and public access helped to inform understanding of the visual amenity, visual sensitivity and the relative tranquillity of the landscape. The evaluation of the characteristics found in the settlements and countryside helped to inform understanding of what elements should be conserved and enhanced. The consultation process that formed part of the Neighbourhood Plan process provided useful evidence on how the communities perceive the Chew Valley landscape.

Work contributing to the Cheddar Neighbourhood Plan and Cheddar Design Guide helped to identify views, viewpoints and the relative visual sensitivity of the landscape. The analysis of Cheddar’s settlement pattern helped to identify settlement character areas.

The AONB Unit continues to provide landscape planning advice to all the local planning authorities and Exmoor National Park Authority. This year there have been a significant number of development proposals including for large housing schemes within the setting of the AONB, large scale solar arrays and wind turbines.

The launch of Historic England’s publication, “Historic Landscapes of the Mendip Hills”, was celebrated with a seminar that focused on the historic landscape of Cheddar and Cheddar Gorge.

The work the AONB Unit has undertaken, through the tourism seminar and workshop, helping to initiate the Cheddar walkers are welcome, and a review of the Mendip Way footpath, has continued to raise the profile of tourism in the AONB. The AONB supports rural growth that benefits the rural economy and conserves and enhances the landscape.

As we continue to work with our existing funding partners, we continue to seek new funding sources for projects and to maintain the AONB staff unit who provide specialist AONB advice and lead initiatives including the Mendip Hills Fund, Discovering Black Down project , Young Rangers , Volunteer Practical Task Group and undertake other activities highlighted in this review.

Sadly Sarah Jackson, AONB Manager for 17 years, moved to a new role this year. We wish her well and thank her for all her effort.

Cllr Dawn Hill Chair, Mendip Hills AONB Partnership

Full Annual Review 2015-2016 (PDF download 2.5MB)