An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB; Welsh : Ardal o Harddwch Naturiol Eithriadol, AHNE) is an area of countryside in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, that 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, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency respectively. 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 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 that 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.
The purpose of an AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the designated landscape.
There are 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 in 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 the United Kingdom (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, covering the Clwydian Range only, 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, 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi), and the largest is the Cotswolds, 2,038 km2 (787 sq mi). AONB's cover around 15% of England's land area and 4% of Wales'.
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 that include members appointed by a 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,
The government stated in the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) 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. The Glover Report in 2019 made various recommendations regarding the future of AONBs but as at 1 November 2020 the government has yet to respond to those recommendations, the report's 'central proposal' having been to bring National Parks and AONBs together as part of one 'family of national landscapes'.However, the Cotswolds Conservation Board announced in September that they were re-styling the area name and it is now known as the Cotswolds National Landscape.
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 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB), an independent registered charity acting on behalf of AONBs and their partners, which uses the slogan "Landscapes for Life".
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. 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.Three particular AONBs 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
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".
Poet Laureate Simon Armitage wrote a poem "Fugitives", commissioned by the National Association of AONBs, which he read on Arnside Knott on 21 September 2019 to launch the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.
|Arnside and Silverdale||1972||75 km2 (29 sq mi)||Cumbria (South Lakeland), Lancashire (Lancaster)|
|Blackdown Hills||1991||370 km2 (140 sq mi)||Devon (East Devon, Mid Devon), Somerset (South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton)|
|Cannock Chase||1958||68 km2 (26 sq mi)||Staffordshire (Cannock Chase, Lichfield)|
|Chichester Harbour||1964||37 km2 (14 sq mi)||Hampshire (Havant), West Sussex (Chichester)|
|Chiltern Hills||1965||833 km2 (322 sq mi)||Buckinghamshire, Central Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire (Dacorum, North Hertfordshire, Three Rivers), Luton, Oxfordshire (South Oxfordshire)|
|Cornwall||1959||958 km2 (370 sq mi)||Cornwall|
|Cotswolds||1966||2,038 km2 (787 sq mi)||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 West Wiltshire Downs||1981||983 km2 (380 sq mi)||Dorset, Hampshire (New Forest), Somerset (Mendip, South Somerset), Wiltshire|
|Dedham Vale||1970||90 km2 (35 sq mi)||Essex (Colchester, Tendring), Suffolk (Babergh)|
|Dorset||1959||1,129 km2 (436 sq mi)||Dorset|
|East Devon||1963||268 km2 (103 sq mi)||Devon (East Devon)|
|Forest of Bowland||1964||803 km2 (310 sq mi)||Lancashire (Lancaster, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Wyre), North Yorkshire (Craven)|
|High Weald||1983||1,460 km2 (560 sq mi)||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 km2 (79 sq mi)||North Yorkshire (Hambleton, Ryedale)|
|Isle of Wight||1963||189 km2 (73 sq mi)||Isle of Wight|
|Isles of Scilly||1975||16 km2 (6.2 sq mi)||Isles of Scilly|
|Kent Downs||1968||878 km2 (339 sq mi)||Greater London (Bromley), Kent (Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Swale, Tonbridge and Malling), Medway|
|Lincolnshire Wolds||1973||560 km2 (220 sq mi)||Lincolnshire (East Lindsey, West Lindsey), North East Lincolnshire|
|Malvern Hills||1959||105 km2 (41 sq mi)||Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean), Herefordshire, Worcestershire (Malvern Hills)|
|Mendip Hills||1972||200 km2 (77 sq mi)||Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor)|
|Nidderdale||1994||603 km2 (233 sq mi)||North Yorkshire (Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire)|
|Norfolk Coast||1968||453 km2 (175 sq mi)||Norfolk (Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, North Norfolk)|
|North Devon Coast||1959||171 km2 (66 sq mi)||Devon (North Devon, Torridge)|
|North Pennines||1988||1,983 km2 (766 sq mi)||County Durham, Cumbria (Carlisle, Eden), Northumberland, North Yorkshire (Richmondshire)|
|Northumberland Coast||1958||138 km2 (53 sq mi)||Northumberland|
|North Wessex Downs||1972||1,730 km2 (670 sq mi)||Hampshire (Basingstoke and Deane, Test Valley), Oxfordshire (South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse), Swindon, West Berkshire, Wiltshire|
|Quantock Hills||1956||98 km2 (38 sq mi)||Somerset (Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton)|
|Shropshire Hills||1958||802 km2 (310 sq mi)||Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin|
|Solway Coast||1964||115 km2 (44 sq mi)||Cumbria (Allerdale, Carlisle)|
|South Devon||1960||337 km2 (130 sq mi)||Devon (South Hams), Plymouth, Torbay|
|Suffolk Coast and Heaths||1970||403 km2 (156 sq mi)||Suffolk (Babergh, East Suffolk)|
|Surrey Hills||1958||422 km2 (163 sq mi)||Surrey (Guildford, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Tandridge, Waverley)|
|Tamar Valley||1995||190 km2 (73 sq mi)||Cornwall, Devon (South Hams, West Devon)|
|Wye Valley (partly in Wales)||1971||326 km2 (126 sq mi)||Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean), Herefordshire, Wales: Monmouthshire|
|Total||19,035 km2 (7,349 sq mi)|
The establishment of the New Forest National Park in 2005 meant the subsumption of South Hampshire Coast AONB into it. East Hampshire and Sussex Downs AONBs were replaced in 2010 by the South Downs National Park.
|AONB / AHNE||Photo||Established||Area||Local authorities|
| Anglesey |
|1967||221 km2 (85 sq mi)||Anglesey|
| Clwydian Range and Dee Valley |
(Bryniau Clwyd a Dyffryn Dyfrdwy)
|1985||389 km2 (150 sq mi)||Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham|
| Gower |
|1956||188 km2 (73 sq mi)||Swansea|
|Llŷn||1956||155 km2 (60 sq mi)||Gwynedd|
| Wye Valley |
(partly in England)
|1971||326 km2 (126 sq mi)||Monmouthshire,|
|Antrim Coast and Glens||1989||724 km2 (280 sq mi)||Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim|
|Binevenagh||1966||138 km2 (53 sq mi)||Causeway Coast and Glens|
|Causeway Coast||1989||42 km2 (16 sq mi)||Causeway Coast and Glens|
|Lagan Valley||1965||39 km2 (15 sq mi)||Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh|
|Mourne Mountains||1986||570 km2 (220 sq mi)||Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Newry, Mourne and Down|
|Ring of Gullion||1966||154 km2 (59 sq mi)||Newry, Mourne and Down|
|Sperrins||1968||1,181 km2 (456 sq mi)||Causeway Coast and Glens, Derry and Strabane, Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster|
|Strangford and Lecale||1967||525 km2 (203 sq mi)||Ards and North Down, Newry, Mourne and Down|
The following are formal proposals for new AONBs submitted to Natural England:
The 2019 Landscape Review Report additionally favourably mentions proposals not listed in Natural England's list: from Sandstone Ridge and the Vale of Belvoir.
The Cotswolds is a region in central-southwest England, along a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale.
A heritage coast is a strip of coastline in England and Wales, the extent of which is defined by agreement between the relevant statutory national agency and the relevant local authority. Such areas are recognised for their natural beauty, wildlife and heritage and amongst the purposes of definition is support for these qualities and enabling enjoyment of them by the public. For England this national agency is Natural England and for Wales it is Natural Resources Wales.
An environmentally sensitive area (ESA) is a type of designation for an agricultural area which needs special protection because of its landscape, wildlife or historical value. The scheme was introduced in 1987. Originally it was administered by Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, then the Rural Development Service for the United Kingdom Governments Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and currently Natural England following successive re-organisation of the departments. In 2005 the scheme was superseded by Environmental Stewardship and closed to new entrants. Existing agreements remain active until they expire, meaning the designation will remain active until 2014.
Protected areas of the United Kingdom are areas in the United Kingdom which need and /or receive protection because of their environmental, historical or cultural value to the nation. Methods and aims of protection vary depending on the nature and importance of the resource. Protection operates at local, regional, national and international levels, and may be backed by legislation and international treaty, or less formally by planning policy.
A national scenic area (NSA) is a conservation designation used in several countries.
The Countryside Council for Wales was a Welsh Assembly sponsored body responsible for wildlife conservation, landscape and countryside access authority for Wales. It was merged with Forestry Commission Wales, and Environment Agency Wales to form Natural Resources Wales, a single body managing Wales' environment and natural resources, on 1 April 2013.
The Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales are areas of countryside that have been designated for statutory protection due to their significant landscape value in Wales. There are currently five areas designated, four wholly in Wales and another spanning the Wales-England border, accounting for 4% of Wales' land area. The responsibility of designating areas in recognition of their national importance is devolved to Wales and performed by Natural Resources Wales, on behalf of the Welsh Government. The designation is also used in England, and Northern Ireland. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty enjoy levels of protection from development similar to those of Welsh national parks, but unlike national parks, the responsible AONB bodies do not have their own planning powers, instead are performed by local authorities. They also differ from national parks in their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation. It has been proposed that the designation be renamed to National Landscapes of Wales, however, such proposals have failed to be followed through.
The Chiltern Hills is a chalk escarpment in England.
The South Downs National Park is England's newest national park, designated on 31 March 2010. The park, covering an area of 1,627 square kilometres (628 sq mi) in southern England, stretches for 140 kilometres (87 mi) from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east through the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex. The national park covers the chalk hills of the South Downs and a substantial part of a separate physiographic region, the western Weald, with its heavily wooded sandstone and clay hills and vales. The South Downs Way spans the entire length of the park and is the only National Trail that lies wholly within a national park.
National parks of the United Kingdom are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape across the country. Despite their name, they are quite different from national parks in many other countries, which are usually owned and managed by governments as protected community resources, and which do not usually include permanent human communities. In the United Kingdom, an area designated as a national park may include substantial settlements and human land uses that are often integral parts of the landscape. Land within national parks remains largely in private ownership. These parks are therefore not "national parks" according to the internationally accepted standard of the IUCN but they are areas of outstanding landscape where planning controls are a little more restrictive than elsewhere.
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created the National Parks Commission which later became the Countryside Commission and then the Countryside Agency, which became Natural England when it merged with English Nature in 2006. The Act provided the framework for the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, and also addressed public rights of way and access to open land. The Act was passed in 1949 with all-party support, as part of the reconstruction of the UK by the Labour government after World War II.
The national parks of Wales are managed areas of outstanding landscape in Wales, United Kingdom where some forms of development are restricted to preserve the landscape and natural environment. Together, they cover 20% of the land surface of Wales and have a resident population of over 80,000 people. Each National Park Authority is a free-standing body within the local government framework. At present, Wales has three national parks: Snowdonia, created in 1951, Pembrokeshire Coast (1952) and Brecon Beacons National Park (1957), and five areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), which together form the Protected areas of Wales. One of the AONBs, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley has been proposed to be Wales' fourth national park.
The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is in south-east England. Covering an area of 1,450 square kilometres (560 sq mi), it takes up parts of Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, and West Sussex. It is the fourth largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales. It has an attractive landscape with a mosaic of small farms and woodlands, historic parks, sunken lanes and ridge-top villages.
The Howardian Hills are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty located between the Yorkshire Wolds, the North York Moors National Park, and the Vale of York. They take their name from the Howard family who still own local lands.
The Clwydian Range is a series of hills in the north-east of Wales that runs from Llandegla in the south to Prestatyn in the north, the highest point being the popular Moel Famau. The range forms part of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England was designated in 1966. The designation was revoked in March 2010, together with the neighbouring East Hampshire AONB, upon the establishment of the South Downs National Park.
Wales, a country that is part of the United Kingdom, contains protected areas under various designations. The largest designation by land area is Wales' three national parks, followed by the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
National scenic area (NSA) is a conservation designation used in Scotland, and administered by NatureScot on behalf of the Scottish Government. The designation's purpose is to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to protect them from inappropriate development. There are currently 40 national scenic areas (NSAs) in Scotland, covering 13% of the land area of Scotland. The areas protected by the designation are considered to represent the type of scenic beauty "popularly associated with Scotland and for which it is renowned". As such they tend to be mainly found in remote and mountainous areas, with a review in 1997 noting a potential weakness of national scenic areas was that the original selection placed undue emphasis on mountainous parts of the country. National scenic areas do however also cover seascapes, with approximately 26% of the total area protected by the designation being marine. The designation is primarily concerned with scenic qualities, although designated national scenic areas may well have other special qualities, for example related to culture, history, archaeology, geology or wildlife. Areas with such qualities may be protected by other designations that overlap with the NSA designation.
The South Pennines Regional Park is a proposed national park that would cover the South Pennines area in Northern England, encompassing parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire. It would also adjoin the borders of two existing national parks; the Yorkshire Dales in the north and the Peak District in the south. The area was named as a prospective national park in the 1940s when the idea of creating national parks was being carried forward, but it was never given the same status as the Peak District, North York Moors or the Yorkshire Dales.
The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and proposed national park, located in north-east Wales, covering the Clwydian Range, and the valley of the River Dee. Designated in 1985 as the Clwydian Range AONB, and expanded to its current form in 2011, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty includes: medieval field systems, open heather moorland, prehistoric hillforts, limestone crags, broad leaved woodland, wooded valleys, and farmland. In 2018, an estimated 1.1 million people visited six key sites across the AONB, generating approximately £24.1 million to the Welsh economy, according to Natural Resources Wales. The AONB falls within the jurisdiction of the local authorities of Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Wrexham County Borough, with the majority, 80% of the AONB in Denbighshire, and the remaining 20% split evenly between the other two authorities. The AONB is the largest of only five AONBs in Wales, and one of the 46 in the United Kingdom. Additionally, it is one of only 8 protected areas of Wales. Long-distance footpaths; Offa's Dyke Path, and the Clwydian Way pass through the AONB. The area of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB is 390 km2 (150 sq mi), and has been proposed by the Welsh Government to become Wales' fourth national park.