Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are designated by Government under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, solely on account of their natural beauty and with the aim of conserving and enhancing it.
The criteria for designation of AONBs are:
- Outstanding natural beauty across the area as a whole;
- An area of such significance that its conservation and enhancement can best be met through AONB designation.
Designation demands that the policies and decisions of public bodies should focus on the conservation and enhancement of the landscape.
The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty. Subsidiary purposes – in effect, qualifications of the primary purpose – are those defined in a Countryside Commission statement 1991, restated in 2006:
- In pursuing the primary purpose of designation, account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry, other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities. Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.
- Recreation is not an objective of designation, but the demand for recreation should be met so far as this is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses.
Download the AONB designation history