High Weald AONB Management Plan

Managing our medieval landscape

The High Weald AONB Management Plan is the single most important document for the AONB.

It is a statutory document which sets out the five-year objectives for conserving this nationally-important landscape.

The Management Plan also has a wider role. It provides a means by which all public bodies can judge, and be judged on, their duty to have regard to conservation of the AONB.

Lastly, it provides a guide for residents, businesses and visitors on the actions they can take to help safeguard this special area.

Draft High Weald AONB Management Plan 2024-2029 – Public Consultation consultation

The current High Weald AONB Management Plan was published in 2019. The AONB team has produced a draft version of the next Plan, which was subject to a formal public consultation at the end of 2023.

The new Plan is due to be published in Spring 2024.

What is a Management Plan?

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 requires local authorities with land in an AONB to prepare and publish an up-to-date plan which ‘formulates their policy for the management of the area and for the carrying out of their functions in relation to it’.

In the High Weald this requirement is met through the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee (JAC), a partnership which includes all 15 local authorities covering the area together with community, environment and land-based sector representatives.

Following a formal public consultation process, the individual local authorities adopt the Plan for its five-year cycle.

The current High Weald AONB Management Plan was published in 2019. The AONB team is currently working on the next version, which is currently under formal consultation until 5 November 2023.

What does it include?

The Plan includes:

  • A Vision for the future of the High Weald
  • A Statement of Significance defining the natural beauty of the High Weald
  • Character statements, including a list of key characteristics, describing the components of natural beauty that policy and actions should aim to conserve and enhance
  • Data and information about the High Weald’s natural and cultural assets
  • A set of management policies (‘Objectives’) for the conservation and enhancement of the AONB together with a monitoring framework for judging success
  • Proposed Actions which indicate the ambitions of partners for themselves, and for others, and which guide resources and effort to where they are most needed
  • References to evidence and supporting information.

Research reports, data sets and maps for each component of natural beauty and for selected aspects of the area’s natural and cultural capital, are held by the High Weald JAC and available to support Plan delivery.

Using the Management Plan

A group of people holding copies of the High WEald AONB Management Plan

Everyone living and working in the AONB – or with an influence on it – can make a positive contribution to conserving the High Weald.

The  Management Plan objectives and targets can be used as criteria to judge the impact of any policy, land management activity, project or proposed development on the AONB.

High Weald Statement of Significance

The Statement of Significance defines what makes the High Weald special and identifies the qualities that justify its designation as a nationally important landscape.

The High Weald’s ‘natural beauty’ is described by five key components of character around which the Management Plan is structured, plus two additional categories – ‘Land based economy’ and ‘Other qualities’.

Defining ‘Natural beauty’ and ‘Landscape’

A misty landscape shot in early morning, with the fog rolling over the hills

Conservation and enhancement of natural beauty is the primary purpose of AONB legislation.

The term ‘natural beauty’ was enshrined in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

‘Landscape’ is a very complicated idea.  It is more than scenery, or views or just the land. Landscapes evolve through time, and change as a result of natural forces and human exploitation.

Further information

The High Weald AONB Management Plan 2019- 2024 is supported by the following documents, which are available to download in our Publications library:

  • Habitat Regulation Screening
  • Equality Impact Assessment
  • Monitoring Condition of the AONB and Performance of the AONB
  • Consultation Report
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment