An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an area of countryside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. Areas are designated in recognition of their national importance, by the relevant public body: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. In place of AONB, Scotland uses the similar national scenic area (NSA) designation. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoy levels of protection from development similar to those of UK national parks, but unlike with national parks the responsible bodies do not have their own planning powers. They also differ from national parks in their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation.
The idea for what would eventually become the AONB designation was first put forward by John Dower in his 1945 Report to the Government on National Parks in England and Wales. Dower suggested there was need for protection of certain naturally beautiful landscapes which were unsuitable as national parks owing to their small size and lack of wildness. Dower's recommendation for the designation of these "other amenity areas" was eventually embodied in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 as the AONB designation.
There two secondary aims: meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and having regard for the interests of those who live and work there. To achieve these aims, AONBs rely on planning controls and practical countryside management. As they have the same landscape quality, AONBs may be compared to the national parks of England and Wales. National parks are well known to many inhabitants of the UK; by contrast, there is evidence to indicate many residents in AONBs may be unaware of the status. However, the National Association of AONBs is working to increase awareness of AONBs in local communities, and in 2014 successfully negotiated to have the boundaries of AONBs in England shown on Google Maps.
There are 46 AONBs in Britain (33 wholly in England, four wholly in Wales, one that straddles the Anglo-Welsh border and eight in Northern Ireland). The first AONB was designated in 1956 in the Gower Peninsula, South Wales. The most recently confirmed is the Tamar Valley AONB in 1995, although the existing Clwydian Range AONB was extended in 2012 to form the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB, and the Strangford Lough and Lecale Coast AONBs were merged and redesignated as a single AONB in 2010.
AONBs vary greatly in terms of size, type and use of land, and whether they are partly or wholly open to the public. The smallest AONB is the Isles of Scilly (1976), 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi), and the largest is the Cotswolds (1966, extended 1990), 2,038 km2 (787 sq mi). The AONBs of England and Wales together cover around 18% of the countryside in the two countries. The AONBs of Northern Ireland together cover about 70% of Northern Ireland's coastline.
AONBs in England and Wales were originally created under the same legislation as the national parks, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Unlike AONBs, national parks have special legal powers to prevent unsympathetic development. AONBs in general remain the responsibility of their local authorities by means of special committees which include members appointed by the minister and by parishes, and only very limited statutory duties were imposed on local authorities within an AONB by the original 1949 Act. However, further regulation and protection of AONBs in England and Wales was added by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000, under which new designations are now made, and the Government has recently in the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) stated that AONBs and national parks have equal status when it comes to planning decisions on landscape issues. Two of the AONBs (the Cotswolds and the Chilterns), which extend into a large number of local authority areas, have their own statutory bodies, known as conservation boards.
All English and Welsh AONBs have a dedicated AONB officer and other staff. As required by the CRoW Act, each AONB has a management plan that sets out the characteristics and special qualities of the landscape and how they will be conserved and enhanced. The AONBs are collectively represented by the National Association for AONBs, an independent organization acting on behalf of AONBs and their partners.
AONBs in Northern Ireland was designated originally under the Amenity Lands (NI) Act 1965; subsequently under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985.
There are growing concerns among environmental and countryside groups that AONB status is increasingly under threat from development. The Campaign to Protect Rural England said in July 2006 that many AONBs were under greater threat than ever before. Three particular sites were cited: the Dorset AONB threatened by a road plan, the threat of a football stadium in the Sussex Downs AONB, and, larger than any other, a £1 billion plan by Imperial College London to build thousands of houses and offices on hundreds of acres of AONB land on the Kent Downs at Wye. In September 2007 government approval was finally given for the development of a new football ground for Brighton and Hove Albion within the boundaries of the Sussex Downs AONB, after a fierce fight by conservationists. The subsequent development, known as Falmer Stadium, was officially opened in July 2011. The Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset was constructed between 2008 and 2011, after environmental groups lost a High Court challenge to prevent its construction.
Writing in 2006, Professor Adrian Phillips listed threats facing AONBs. He wrote that the apparent big threats were uncertainty over future support for land management, increasing development pressures, the impacts of globalization, and climate change. More subtle threats include creeping sub-urbanization and "horsiculture".
|AONB||Established||km2||sq mi||Local Authorities|
|Arnside and Silverdale||1972||75||29||Cumbria (South Lakeland), Lancashire (Lancaster)|
|Blackdown Hills||1991||370||143||Devon (East Devon, Mid Devon), Somerset (South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton)|
|Cannock Chase||1958||68||26||Staffordshire (Cannock Chase, Lichfield)|
|Chichester Harbour||1970||37||14||Hampshire (Havant), West Sussex (Chichester)|
|Chiltern Hills||1965||833||322||Buckinghamshire (Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks, Wycombe), Central Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire (Dacorum, North Hertfordshire, Three Rivers), Luton, Oxfordshire (South Oxfordshire)|
|Cotswolds||1966||2038||787||Bath and North East Somerset, Gloucestershire (Cheltenham, Cotswold, Stroud, Tewkesbury), Oxfordshire (Cherwell, West Oxfordshire), South Gloucestershire, Warwickshire (Stratford-on-Avon), Wiltshire, Worcestershire (Wychavon)|
|Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs||1981||983||380||Dorset, Hampshire (New Forest), Somerset (Mendip, South Somerset), Wiltshire|
|Dedham Vale||1970||90||35||Essex (Colchester, Tendring), Suffolk (Babergh)|
|East Devon||1963||268||103||Devon (East Devon)|
|Forest of Bowland||1964||803||312||Lancashire (Lancaster, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Wyre), North Yorkshire (Craven)|
|High Weald||1983||1460||564||East Sussex (Hastings, Rother, Wealden), Kent (Ashford, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells), Surrey (Tandridge), West Sussex (Crawley, Horsham, Mid Sussex)|
|Howardian Hills||1987||204||79||North Yorkshire (Hambleton, Ryedale)|
|Isle of Wight||1963||189||73||Isle of Wight|
|Isles of Scilly||1975||16||6||Isles of Scilly|
|Kent Downs||1968||878||339||Greater London (Bromley), Kent (Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Swale, Tonbridge and Malling), Medway|
|Lincolnshire Wolds||1973||560||216||Lincolnshire (East Lindsey, West Lindsey), North East Lincolnshire|
|Malvern Hills||1959||105||41||Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean), Herefordshire, Worcestershire (Malvern Hills)|
|Mendip Hills||1972||200||77||Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor)|
|Nidderdale||1994||603||233||North Yorkshire (Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire)|
|Norfolk Coast||1968||453||175||Norfolk (Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk)|
|North Devon Coast||1959||171||66||Devon (North Devon, Torridge)|
|North Pennines||1988||1983||766||County Durham, Cumbria (Carlisle, Eden), Northumberland, North Yorkshire (Richmondshire)|
|North Wessex Downs||1972||1730||668||Hampshire (Basingstoke and Deane, Test Valley), Oxfordshire (South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse), Swindon, West Berkshire, Wiltshire|
|Quantock Hills||1956||98||38||Somerset (Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton)|
|Shropshire Hills||1958||802||310||Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin|
|Solway Coast||1964||115||44||Cumbria (Allerdale, Carlisle)|
|South Devon||1960||337||130||Devon (South Hams), Torbay|
|Suffolk Coast and Heaths||1970||403||155||Suffolk (Babergh, East Suffolk)|
|Surrey Hills||1958||422||163||Surrey (Guildford, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Tandridge, Waverley)|
|Tamar Valley||1995||190||75||Cornwall, Devon (South Hams, West Devon)|
|Wye Valley (partly in Wales)||1971||326||126||Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean), Herefordshire, Monmouthshire|
|AONB||Established||km2||sq mi||Local Authorities|
|Clwydian Range and Dee Valley||1985||389||150||Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham|
|Wye Valley (partly in England)||1971||326||126||Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire|
|AONB||Established||km2||sq mi||Local Authorities|
|Antrim Coast and Glens||1989||724||280||Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim|
|Binevenagh||1966[a]||138||53||Causeway Coast and Glens|
|Causeway Coast||1989||42||16||Causeway Coast and Glens|
|Lagan Valley||1965||39||15||Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh|
|Mourne Mountains||1986||570||220||Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Newry, Mourne and Down|
|Ring of Gullion||1966[b]||154||59||Newry, Mourne and Down|
|Sperrins||1968||1181||456||Causeway Coast and Glens, Derry and Strabane, Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster|
|Strangford and Lecale||1967[c]||525||203||Ards and North Down, Newry, Mourne and Down|
The Antrim Coast and Glens is an area of County Antrim in Northern Ireland, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988.The designation takes in the coastline from Ballycastle in the north to Larne in the south of County Antrim, and includes Rathlin Island. The inland area encompasses the Glens of Antrim and the Antrim Plateau which reaches its highest point at Trostan, 550 m above sea level and comprises 706 square kilometres.Arnside and Silverdale
Arnside and Silverdale is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England, on the border between Lancashire and Cumbria, adjoining Morecambe Bay. One of the smallest AONBs, it covers 29 square miles (75 km2) between the Kent Estuary, the River Keer and the A6 road. It was designated in 1972.Chiltern Hills
The Chiltern Hills or, as they are known locally and historically, the Chilterns, is a range of hills northwest of London. They form a chalk escarpment across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire. A large portion of the hills was designated officially as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1965.
The Chilterns cover an area of 322 square miles (830 km2) stretching 45 miles (72 km) in a southwest to a northeast diagonal from Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire to Hitchin, Hertfordshire. At their widest, they are 12 miles (19 km).The northwest boundary of the hills is clearly defined by the escarpment. The dip slope is by definition more gradual, and merges with the landscape to the southeast. The southwest endpoint is the River Thames. The hills decline slowly in prominence in northeast Bedfordshire.Clwydian Range
The Clwydian Range (Welsh: Bryniau Clwyd) is a series of hills and mountains in north east Wales that runs from Llandegla in the south to Prestatyn in the north, with the highest point being the popular Moel Famau. The range is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The AONB has been extended to include the Dee Valley around Llangollen including Moel y Gamelin, the Horseshoe Pass and Castell Dinas Bran, increasing the area to 150 square miles (389 square km). The highest point in the AONB is Moel y Gamelin at 1,893 feet (577 metres).Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 958 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in Cornwall, England, UK; that is, about 27% of the total area of the county. It comprises 12 separate areas, designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 for special landscape protection. Of the areas, eleven cover stretches of coastline; the twelfth is Bodmin Moor. The areas are together treated as a single Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 places a duty on all relevant authorities when discharging any function affecting land within an AONB to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty. Section 89 places a statutory duty on Local Planning Authorities with an AONB within their administrative area to produce a 5-year management plan.Cotswold District
Cotswold is a local government district in Gloucestershire in England. It is named after the wider Cotswolds region. Its main town is Cirencester.
It was formed on 1 April 1974 by the merger of the urban district of Cirencester with Cirencester Rural District, North Cotswold Rural District, Northleach Rural District and Tetbury Rural District. The population of the District at the time of the 2011 Census was about 83,000.Eighty per cent of the district lies within the River Thames catchment area, with the Thames itself and several tributaries including the River Windrush and River Leach running through the district. Lechlade in an important point on the river as the upstream limit of navigation. In the 2007 floods in the UK, rivers were the source of flooding of 53 per cent of the locations affected and the Thames at Lechlade reached record levels with over 100 reports of flooding.The District is spread over 450 square miles, with some 80% of the land located within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The much larger area referred to as the Cotswolds encompasses nearly 800 square miles, over five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. This large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had a population of 139,000 in 2016.Cotswolds
The Cotswolds ( KOTS-wohldz, -wəldz) is an area in south central England comprising the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone that creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK and that is quarried for the golden-coloured Cotswold stone. It contains unique features derived from the use of this mineral; the predominantly rural landscape contains stone-built villages, historical towns and stately homes and gardens.
Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966, the Cotswolds covers 787 square miles (2,040 km2) and is the second largest protected landscape in England (second to the Lake District) and the largest AONB. Its boundaries are roughly 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (140 km) long, stretching south-west from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath. It lies across the boundaries of several English counties; mainly Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The highest point of the region is Cleeve Hill at 1,083 ft (330 m), just east of Cheltenham.
The hills give their name to the Cotswold local-government district, formed on 1 April 1974, which administers over half of the area. Most of the District is in the county of Gloucestershire; some 80% of it is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The main town is Cirencester and the Cotswold District Council offices are located in that community. The population of the 450-square-mile (1,200 km2) District was about 83,000 in 2011. The much larger area referred to as the Cotswolds encompasses nearly 800 square miles (2,100 km2), over five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. The population of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was 139,000 in 2016.Craven Arms
Craven Arms is a small town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, on the A49 road and the Welsh Marches railway line, which link it north and south to the larger towns of Shrewsbury and Ludlow respectively. The Heart of Wales railway line joins the Welsh Marches line at Craven Arms and the town is served by Craven Arms railway station. The town is enclosed to the north by the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and to the south is the fortified manor house of Stokesay Castle.
Craven Arms is a market town for the surrounding rural area, with a number of shops, banks, estate agents, a supermarket, an abattoir and many commercial/light industrial businesses. It is also a visitor destination, being home or nearby to a number of attractions, and being central for visitors to the area of outstanding natural beauty. It describes itself as the "Gateway to the Marches".East Devon AONB
East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers over 100 square miles (260 km2) of the East Devon countryside (England).
This countryside includes eighteen miles (29 km) of Heritage coastline. The designated area covers: twenty-nine parishes and borders the coastal towns of Exmouth, Seaton and Sidmouth but includes the entire resort of Budleigh Salterton.
East Devon has two AONBs within its catchment area which includes the Blackdown Hills (designated 1991) and East Devon AONB (designated 1963), both AONBs make up over 66% of the district.
East Devon AONB Partnership is a joint initiative funded by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), East Devon District Council and Devon County Council. Through ventures such as community projects and project grants East Devon AONB Partnership helps to conserve and manage the East Devon AONB.Gower Peninsula
Gower (Welsh: Gŵyr) or the Gower Peninsula (Penrhyn Gŵyr) is in South Wales. It projects westwards into the Bristol Channel and is the most westerly part of the historic county of Glamorgan. In 1956, Gower became the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Gower was administered as a Rural District of Glamorgan. In 1974 it was merged with the county borough of Swansea, to form the Swansea district. Since 1996, Gower has been administered as part of the unitary authority of City and County of Swansea council.
The Gower constituency elected only Labour members of Parliament from 1906, the longest run (with Normanton and Makerfield) of any UK constituency. This run ended in 2015 with the Conservatives taking the seat. The constituency area covers the peninsula and the outer Gower areas—Clydach, Gowerton, Gorseinon, Felindre, Garnswllt—and encompasses the area of the Lordship of Gower, less the city of Swansea.High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is situated in south-east England. Covering an area of 1,450 square kilometres (560 sq mi), it extends across the counties of Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent. It is the fourth largest Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales. It is characterised by an attractive, small-scale landscape containing a mosaic of small farms and woodlands, historic parks, sunken lanes and ridge-top villages.Iken Wood
Iken Wood is a 5.3 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest south of Snape in Suffolk. It is in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.This is probably the only ancient coppice wood on blown sand in Britain. Massive oak standards are dominant, and there are stools with a diameter of 3 metres (10 feet). Other trees include silver birch, holly and rowan.The site is private land with no public access.Isle of Wight AONB
The Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on the Isle of Wight, England's largest offshore island.
The AONB was designated in 1963 and covers 189 square kilometres, about half of the island, mostly near the south-west and north-west coasts but also including downland in the east. It also covers about half the coastline, including both the Hamstead and Tennyson Heritage Coast areas.The AONB is applying for UNESCO biosphere status.Nacton Meadows
Nacton Meadows is a 4.5 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north-west of Levington in Suffolk. It is in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural BeautyThis site has fen meadow and grasslands. Wetter areas have more diverse flora, including Yorkshire-fog, crested dog's tail, sharp-flowered rush, greater bird's-foot-trefoil and the uncommon marsh arrowgrass.A public footpath from Levington goes through the site.Nidderdale AONB
The Nidderdale AONB is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire, England, bordering the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the east and south. It comprises most of Nidderdale itself, part of lower Wharfedale, the Washburn valley and part of lower Wensleydale, including Jervaulx Abbey and the side valleys west of the River Ure. It covers a total area of 233 square miles (600 km2). The highest point in the Nidderdale AONB is Great Whernside, 704 metres (2,310 ft) above sea level, on the border with the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The only town in the AONB is Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale. Otley and Ilkley lie just to the south of the AONB, and Masham and Ripon are just to the east.North Pennines
The North Pennines is the northernmost section of the Pennine range of hills which runs north–south through northern England. It lies between Carlisle to the west and Darlington to the east. It is bounded to the north by the Tyne Valley and to the south by the Stainmore Gap.Shropshire Hills AONB
The Shropshire Hills area, in the English county of Shropshire, is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is located in the south of the county, extending to its border with Wales. Designated in 1958, the area encompasses 802 square kilometres (310 sq mi) of land primarily in south-west Shropshire, taking its name from the upland region of the Shropshire Hills. The A49 road and Welsh Marches Railway Line bisect the area north-south, passing through or near Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Craven Arms and Ludlow.South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers 337 square kilometres, including much of the South Hams area of Devon and the rugged coastline from Jennycliff to Elberry Cove near Brixham. The purpose of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to conserve and enhance the area's natural beauty. In South Devon this includes: undeveloped coastline, estuaries, geological and geomorphological features, expansive panoramic views, ancient agricultural field pattern, Devon banks, areas of high tranquility, dark night skies and natural nightscapes, historic features, green lanes, well known cultural associations, picturesque villages and hamlets. South Devon AONB was formally designated in August 1960 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (South Devon AONB Management Plan 2009-14). The highest point in the AONB is Blackdown Camp at 199 metres above sea level.
Towns and villages within the area include Bigbury/Burgh Island, Kingsbridge, Newton Ferrers, Battisborough Cross, Salcombe on the Kingsbridge Estuary, Slapton, Wembury, and Dartmouth and Kingswear on either side of the River Dart Estuary.
The AONB also includes several Sites of Special Scientific Interest, including two national nature reserves and four Special Areas of Conservation. It contains nationally important populations of greater horseshoe bat, cirl bunting, shore dock and great green bush cricket.
The AONB also includes a 97km section of the South West Coast Path, 10 kilometres of cliffs at Bolt Head, Bolberry Down which is one of the longest stretches of coast belonging to the National Trust and Prawle Point, the southernmost point in Devon.Wye Valley
The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB; Welsh: Dyffryn Gwy) is an internationally important protected landscape straddling the border between England and Wales. It is one of the most dramatic and scenic landscapes in Britain.
The River Wye (Welsh: Afon Gwy) is the fifth-longest river in the United Kingdom. The upper part passes through Rhayader, Builth Wells and Hay-on-Wye, but the area designated as an AONB covers 326 square kilometres (126 sq mi) surrounding a 72-kilometre (45 mi) stretch lower down the river, from just south of Hereford to Chepstow.This area covers parts of the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and is recognised in particular for its limestone gorge scenery and dense native woodlands, as well as its wildlife, archaeological and industrial remains. It is also historically important as one of the birthplaces of the modern tourism industry. The area is predominantly rural, and many people make a living from tourism, agriculture or forestry. Ross-on-Wye is the only town within the AONB itself, but Hereford, Monmouth, Coleford and Chepstow lie just outside its boundaries.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England
|East of England|
|Yorkshire and Humber|
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales
1 Partly in England
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Northern Ireland
Areas marked † are proposed