Planning – Current Issues
The AONB Unit role is to bring our expertise and influence to bear in seeking to protect the special qualities of the designated landscape and to work with the AONB Partnership Committee to support the local authorities in achieving the objectives of the AONB Management Plan. In particular, as the “voice of the protected landscape” we aim to bring a consistent approach to planning and development issues across the whole area covered by the local authorities. We also work at Regional and National levels as part of the “family” of protected landscapes, for instance supporting campaigns run by the National Association of AONBs, lobbying MPs on issues affecting protected landscapes and the development of strategic advice and policies.
The Longleat Estate propose to develop a cable car in Cheddar Gorge. A planning application is expected in early 2014. The Mendip Hills AONB Partnership has major concerns about the proposal and is working with National Trust (the other major landowner in the Gorge), CPRE Somerset and Keep Cheddar Gorgeous to develop an alternative vision for Cheddar Gorge.
Hinkley Point C Connection Project
National Grid proposes the removal of the existing 132kV overhead line between Bridgwater Substation and Avonmouth Substation and the construction of a new 400kV connection, of approximately 54.4km, between the existing Hinkley Point to Bridgwater overhead line in Somerset and the existing 400kV Seabank substation in Bristol. It is proposed to underground the section that runs through the Mendip Hills AONB.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique used to extract gas from rock deep underground. Government believes shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs, however there are many environmental concerns. The Government has announced that it is committed to an outright ban on fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), however there remains concern that fracking outside the AONB could have an adverse effect on the protected landscape. There are currently no applications in or around the Mendip Hills AONB.
There are an increasing number of planning applications for Solar Arrays in and around the AONB. Solar arrays are visually intrusive and out of character with the wild and remote rural character of the AONB. The AONB developed a Solar array position statement in 2012 and North Somerset Council has recently published a Revised Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Array Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)
Useful sources of information relating to “dark skies” and light pollution are available at these websites:
Institution of Lighting Professionals – Guidance Notes for the reduction of obtrusive light
Countryside Commission/DOE – Lighting in the Countryside (1997) available from Communities & Local Government website
British Astronomical Association
Dark Sky Society
International Dark-Sky Association
Special Qualities – The AONB Management Plan 2014-19 identifies the areas special qualities. Work to support the justification and definition of these special qualities in the context of landscape character and levels of sensitivity is being undertaken.