Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales (AONB) is one of 41 areas in England or Wales that has been specially designated by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the United Kingdom government. There are also AONBs in Northern Ireland, and the rough equivalent for Scotland is the National Scenic Area designated by Scottish Natural Heritage. With the advent of devolved government for Scotland, policy and management of these areas may well differ from the situation in England.

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, with 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.

AONBs may be compared to the national parks of England and Wales. AONBs are created under the same legislation as the national parks, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Unlike AONBs, national parks have their own authorities, have special legal powers to prevent unsympathetic development, and are well known to many inhabitants of England and Wales. By contrast, there are very limited statutory duties imposed on local authorities within an AONB and there is evidence to indicate many residents in such areas may be unaware of the status. However, further regulation and protection of AONBs was added by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Government has recently said that it accepts that AONBs and national parks should have equal status when it comes to planning consent and other sensitive issues.

There are 36 AONBs in England, four in Wales, and one that has parts in both England and Wales. The most recent one to be set up was the Tamar Valley AONB in 1994. AONBs vary greatly in terms of size, type and use of land, whether they are partly or wholly open to the public. Some local councils have AONB officers and other dedicated staff; others do not. The smallest AONB is the Isles of Scilly (1976), 16 km², and the largest AONB is the Cotswolds (1966), 2,038 km². The AONBs of England and Wales together cover around 18% of the countryside in the two countries.

List of AONBs in England and Wales

England and Wales

See also

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