Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are outstanding landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them. Special planning controls apply in the AONB. The planning system protects AONBs to conserve and enhance their natural beauty.
In the AONB the planning priorities are conservation and enhancement of landscape and scenic beauty, and the conservation of wildlife and cultural heritage. Whilst there is a need for development, there is also a need to protect the most special places, the finest and most beautiful parts of the countryside. This is particularly true for the Chilterns, an irreplaceable green lung for London and the south east.
The Chilterns AONB is split across nine local planning authorities (two county councils, containing four district councils, and three unitary authorities). These have the responsibility for housing allocations and development decisions through planning policy and development management functions. Like all public bodies, local authorities have a legal duty to have regard in their decisions to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB. They also have the power to take all such action as appears to them expedient to accomplish this.
However, it is not only local planning authorities that make decisions on development and the construction of infrastructure across the AONB. Some decisions can be made by central government departments and its agencies, and some development can be undertaken by certain infrastructure providers under statutory powers granted to them. Indeed, much development can take place at varying scales, by farmers, businesses and homeowners without needing to apply for planning permission.
The Chilterns Conservation Board is well placed to work with local planning authorities, government agencies, infrastructure providers and individual property owners in an advisory role. We bring understanding of local landscape character, sensitivities and capacity for accommodating change. We comment as consultees on all emerging plans and major planning applications and we prepare guidance for householders, architects and developers. We bring together those who make plans and determine planning applications in the Chilterns to encourage cross-boundary thinking and cooperation over the AONB.