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.

Hinkley Point C Connection Project
Crook Peak PathNational 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.

Response to Draft Environmental Statement from the Mendip Hills AONB Partnership

Up!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.

AONB Partnership Position Statement

Solar Arrays
Blagdon LakeThere 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)

AONB Partnership Position Statement
North Somerset Council’s Solar Array SPD


Dark Skies
Charterhouse ObservatoryUseful 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

AONB Partnership Position Statement

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.

Planning – Applications

The Mendip Hills AONB Unit does not have any statutory planning powers as these are held by the local planning authorities – Somerset County Council, Mendip and Sedgemoor District Councils and the Unitary Authorities of North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset. These Councils make decisions on planning applications for development within the AONB, address planning enforcement issues and adopt policies relating to local development and conservation of the AONB.

AONB Designation gives protection against development to conserve and enhance the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Mendip Hills AONB Management Plan As required by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (the CRoW Act) the local authorities have a statutory responsibility to review the AONB Management Plan every five years.

When should the AONB consulted on Planning Applications?

The Mendip Hills AONB Partnership requests that only planning applications that have strategic or AONB wide implications are sent to the Mendip Hills AONB Planning Liaison Officer for consideration and monitoring. More…

Referral Guidelines Revised October 2015 (PDF download 140KB)

Responding to Change
The Mendip Hills AONB Partnership’s approach to planning in the Mendip Hills AONB is evolving. Like all organisation we are learning how to be effective under increasing financial constraint. We prioritise time towards influencing policy and improving the evidence resource upon which policy is made. We still respond to planning consultations, however we target our efforts; commenting where; we think proposals are likely to have an adverse effect the characteristics that make the AONB special; where our unique “cross border” position means that we see issues that straddle district boundaries, and where we think we can bring further evidence that is likely to help inform decision making.

Influencing Policy & Improving Evidence
We are currently working on a number of initiatives that we hope will influence policy and enhance the evidence base, these include work on; Special Qualities, sensitivity of the AONB’s setting, Neighbourhood Planning, combining the 5 Landscape Character Assessments that cover the AONB.

Influencing Policy & Improving Evidence (PDF download 195KB)

Comments made on Planning Applications
The AONB has commented on a range of planning applications considered to have an adverse effect on the Mendip Hills AONB, these include applications for large scale solar pv development around the AONB and applications for wind turbines, agricultural buildings, holiday accommodation and domestic development in sensitive locations within the AONB.

Comments on Planning Applications and Planning Consultations Jan 2014 – Jan 2015 (PDF dowload 135KB)

How decisions on planning are made in the AONB

Planning decisions within the AONB are not made by the AONB Partnership but instead are made by the Local Planning Authorities. The relevant Local Authority links are listed below

Local Planning Authorities
Sedgemoor District Council
North Somerset Council
Mendip District Council
Bath and North East Somerset Council
Somerset County Council

Other relevant local and national policy and guidance includes:

NPPF National Planning Policy Framework
Horse Related Development Guidelines (PDF Download 1.6MB)
Agricultural Building Design – Guidelines for the Mendip Hills AONB (PDF download 3MB)
Horses the Landscape and You (PDF download 1MB)

Other supporting Information

National Character Areas (NCA) 141 Mendip Hills and 118 Bristol, Avon Valleys and Ridges.

Landscape Character Assessments
Sedgemoor District Council
North Somerset Council
Mendip District Council
Bath and North East Somerset Council