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The NPPF and AONBs - RIP Natural Beauty

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R.I.P Natural Beauty: that wonderful term enshrined in the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act when a romantic idea of scenery still prevailed.

Natural beauty was always about more than just the view or appearance of the landscape. It spoke to its intrinsic character, the interaction of landform and geology, plants and animals with people and the rich history of human settlement over centuries. We might recognise now that what we see as ‘natural’ landscapes in England are almost all cultural, with the hand of people evident everywhere we look but still the term ‘natural beauty’ evokes those characteristics that most people value about these wonderful places: the contrast between their relative wildness and tranquillity and our everyday experience of modern urban living.

It’s a shame then that the government has seen fit to cut this term from planning guidance. Now in the NPPF we have paragraph 115 ‘Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and AONBs’ rather than the statement in PPS7 reflecting the statutory purpose of National Parks and AONBs ‘The conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside should therefore be given great weight in planning policies and development control decisions in these areas’. Does it matter? We’ll have to wait and see.

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