In both consultations, we advanced the core point that progressing nature recovery and sustainable development strategies, as advanced in our Management Plan, is fundamental to the delivery of AONB roles and responsibilities.
The Permitted Development Reforms, as proposed, would weaken current planning controls over the conversion of agricultural buildings and some existing tourist accommodation to residential uses within AONBs. Current planning controls would be weakened in their ability to consider the design, location and sustainability of residential uses of existing and former agricultural buildings in rural locations. As currently constituted, a number of similar planning freedoms exclude land within AONBs. Councils already have appropriate controls in place. They will determine applications to change agricultural buildings or hotels/guest houses to residential, on their merits. The status of the AONB, including our Management Plan policies, will be of key importance. A swathe of planning freedoms that permit such conversions without any such consideration of their merits will lead to unsustainable low-density development, harmful to the rural and tourism economy of the Chilterns.
On Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), such as major new roads, power infrastructure and airport expansion, the consultation proposed a raft of reforms to the rules and processes that govern these decisions. The consultation does acknowledge, alongside a desire to speed up the process, that public and stakeholder engagement is very important when the relevant government minister has to determine such major applications. In that respect, AONBs fall within a two-tier system as conservation boards, such as the CCB, are deemed statutory consultees (i.e. a status enshrined in the legislation), but other AONB units and partnership bodies are not. The CCB put the case that conservation boards (such as in the Chilterns) and all other AONB units and partnerships should be given equal status and attributed statutory consultee status in the NSIP application process.
Click here for more information on planning within the Chilterns AONB.