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Planning Overview

Distant view of boats on river

What does it mean for planning projects when you are within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)? 

Being within an AONB does not mean there is no development at all, but it does need to be appropriate.  If you are considering a project which may need planning permission, then there are a few things you need to consider. 

The primary purpose of an area being designated as an AONB is to conserve and enhance Natural Beauty.  Natural Beauty is defined using six indicators; 

  1. Landscape quality
  2. Scenic quality
  3. Relative wildness
  4. Relative tranquillity
  5. Natural heritage features
  6. Cultural heritage

All development proposals should seek to support the purpose of AONB designation by conserving and enhancing its Natural Beauty. If you are considering developing a large scale project your application to will need to comply with the requirements of paragraph 172 of the National Planning Policy Framework (PDF).

Major schemes will be assessed by your Local Planning Authority (LPA) against this  national policy. (The LPA is your Borough, District or County Council) 

All planning applications will also need to satisfy a number of different policy topics in the Local Plan which is produced by the LPA.  

The Local Plan, is a statutory development plan, which sets out the planning needs for the area it covers and the policy framework that development proposals within that area have to comply with, if they are to be granted planning permission. 

All planning proposals have the potential to impact on the Natural Beauty of the AONB. Examples include poorly designed schemes, developments that are out of scale within their surroundings, poorly sited buildings, or the use of inappropriate materials or colour finishes can all. All these factors need careful consideration. 

Your LPA may have developed guidance known as Supplementary Planning Documents which sets out detailed information of issues such as design or affordable housing. They will also have commissioned lots of studies e.g. Landscape Character Assessment, Strategic Housing Need, Flood Risk Assessments, to support the preparation of their Local Plan. These studies should be available on your local council’s website and you might find it helpful to look at the relevant studies when working up your own development proposals.    

The AONB team is not a statutory planning consultee and we have no planning powers. That rests with the Local Planning Authorities operating across the AONB For the Coast & Heaths AONB the planning authorities are Tendring District Council, Babergh & Mid Suffolk Councils, East Suffolk Council (Suffolk Coastal and Waveney) and Essex and Suffolk County Councils.   

Although not required to, all the LPAs in the AONB seek our views on both policy documents and planning applications that have the potential to impact on the purpose of AONB designation.  

The AONB Team/Partnership has commissioned a number of evidence reports to help ensure that the primary purpose of designation, the conservation and enhancement of the AONB’s natural beauty, is properly considered when planning policies and planning proposals are being prepared. The studies cover issues such as the use of colour in new development, evidence underpinning the designation of the AONB and the Additional Project Area and guidance on landscapes consideration when preparing  Neighbourhood Plans.

The AONB team has also produced Positions Statements on specific planning issues including obtrusive lighting, renewable energy,  and development within the setting of the AONB. You can access and read the Position Statements here