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Areas of outstanding natural beauty

The countryside of England and Wales has a rich diversity of landscapes, of great value to the nation. In 1949 the government decided to protect these areas by giving them special status. ​

Whilst the wilder, more dramatic landscapes became national parks, the softer and generally more intensively farmed areas were made Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). AONBs were introduced in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 to protect areas of great natural beauty. This legislation also introduced national parks. There are currently 41 AONBs in England and Wales, covering about 18% of the country.

The main purposes of the AONB designation are:

  • to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape
  • to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside
  • to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there.

For more information on AONBs contact the National Association of AONBs.

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Cotswolds AONB was designated in 1966 (extended in 1990) and is the largest AONB in England, with an area of 790 sq. miles (2,038 sq. km). It stretches from Chipping Camden in the north to Bath in the south – a distance of 78 miles (126km).

Being an AONB means that the Cotswolds are protected as a very special landscape – a living working landscape of national importance for everyone to enjoy.

The area is cared for by the Cotswolds Conservation Board – an independent organisation, launched in December 2004, responsible for conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB and increasing the understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities.

The Cotswolds Conservation Board is the only organisation to look after the AONB as a whole. It is responsible for preparing the Cotswolds AONB Management Plan and continues to develop new initiatives designed to benefit the area.

The role of South Gloucestershire Council in the Cotswolds AONB

The primary objective of the AONB designation is to conserve the natural beauty of the landscape (paragraphs 20 -22 of Planning Policy Statement 7 of the Planning Portal). Part IV of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 places a duty on local authorities to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB

planning – there are policies in the South Gloucestershire Local Plan and the emerging Core Strategy that aim to protect and enhance the AONB through the planning system. Development control decisions will favour the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the landscape, although regard will also be given to the economic and social wellbeing of the AONB. South Gloucestershire Council Local Plan Policy L2 applies not just to proposals within the AONB but also to proposals which could affect its setting.

South Gloucestershire Council has a long-term commitment to and involvement with the planning and management of the Cotswolds AONB through the Cotswold AONB Conservation Board.

The Cotswolds AONB Management Plan was adopted by all 17 Cotswold AONB local authorities in March 2004 (currently under review). Proposals for development should take into account the issues and objectives in the management plan.

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