A recent report has highlighted the significant increase in major housing developments in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the last five years, with the High Weald experiencing the highest level of growth of any AONB in England.
An Independent Review of Housing In England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty 2012-2017 was commissioned by the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The research found that between 2012 and 2017 there has been a significant increase in the number of planning applications for major housing development (10 units or more) within AONB designated areas as well as in the wider setting of AONBs. There is also a trend for larger development proposals of over 100 units.
A greater proportion of these proposals are being approved, with 8 AONBs in the South of England accounting for 79% of all housing units approved within AONBs. Similarly, the number of appeal cases for major housing developments has increased between 2012-2017, both within AONBs and within 500m of their boundaries. A falling proportion of these approvals are for affordable housing and 25% of approved schemes are still in pre-tendering process up to 4 years after decision date.
The High Weald AONB
The High Weald AONB saw the largest rise in housing development of all the AONBs: growing from an average of 186 units per year 2001-2011; to 311 units per year 2012-2015; and 895 units per year 2015-2017. This is shown in the graph below.
The High Weald AONB Partnership has been very aware of the significant increase in housing development pressure in the last five years and has responded by investing in additional planning support and advice for the Local Planning Authorities – for example, working with them to produce a Design Guide and Colour Study to help make development more appropriate to the character of the AONB, so it can conserve and enhance its natural beauty.
The Colour Study has recently been published and is available for use by developers and Local Planning Authorities. The study provides advice on what colours can be used in new development to help to integrate it into the landscape successfully. The Design Guide is being prepared with the assistance of Design South East; it is intended to publish it for public consultation in the spring.
The High Weald AONB Partnership will continue to work proactively with local authorities and developers to support development that is located in the right place and is of an appropriate scale and design. The overarching aim is to conserve and enhance this special area, which is considered to be one of the best surviving coherent medieval landscapes in Northern Europe.
More about the report
The report – “An Independent Review of Housing In England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty 2012-2017 - was commissioned by the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and prepared by consultants David Dixon, Neil Sinden and Tim Crabtree. The research is based on data collected by Glenigan, a private company specialising in construction sector research, covering planning applications and approvals for housing development in and near to AONBs between 2012 and 2017. This data was compared with that previously collected by Professor Peter Bibby of the University of Sheffield for the period 2011-2011.
The data was supplemented by interviews with AONB staff and CPRE Branches, contextual research and examination of selected case studies, which included the proposal for 600 houses at Pease Pottage within the High Weald AONB. The Study provided a number of recommendations for the NAAONB and CPRE to consider and, where appropriate, utilise during discussions with Government and Local Planning Authorities.