What Is the High Weald AONB Unit’s Role in Planning?
The High Weald AONB Unit is funded by Defra and a partnership of the 15 local authorities covered by the High Weald to provide advice on how to conserve and enhance the AONB. The advice provided by the AONB Unit assists public bodies and statutory undertakers to meet their duty as set out in Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of AONBs in making decisions that affect it.
Unlike National Park authorities, the High Weald AONB Unit is not a statutory body but an advisory one. It is not a local planning authority and the responsibility for determining planning applications remains with the 15 local authorities. The AONB Unit is not a statutory consultee on planning matters and it remains each local planning authority’s decision whether or not they seek its advice on a particular planning application.
We provide advice on how a development proposal affects the 'natural beauty' of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The High Weald AONB Management Plan defines what we mean by natural beauty in the High Weald and sets out objectives for the management of the AONB. The Plan has been endorsed by all 15 Councils with land in the High Weald and is a 'material consideration' in planning applications.
We are a small team and advice on development proposals is one of our many functions. We will therefore generally only comment on planning applications which would have a significant effect on the AONB, and normally only if that advice is requested by the Council that will determine the planning application. We have a general planning protocol with the local authorities which says how we will comment on planning applications they are deciding, and arrangements for commenting on planning policy.
We have produced an Advice Note which aims to assist all those involved in development proposals, including developers and their agents as well as members of the public, consider the impact of the proposed changes on the AONB.
It should be noted that the High Weald AONB Unit will not become involved in local campaigns against proposed developments. Its role in the planning process is simply to provide advice to the decision-maker and others involved in development proposals on how that proposal is likely to affect the 'natural beauty' of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This enables the decision-maker to have regard to that advice in making their decision.
Responsibility for Local Plans and Planning Applications
Your local District or Borough Council is responsible for preparing a Local Plan for your area and for taking decisions about most planning applications. Minerals and Waste Local Plans are prepared by the County Councils and they will also determine any planning applications for this type of development. Your Town or Parish Council may also be preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for your area.
The policies in Local and Neighbourhood Plans, together with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG), will be used to inform planning decisions. Further information about the Planning System can be accessed via the UK Government's Online Planning Portal
Contact your local District or Borough Council about making or commenting on a planning application within the AONB boundary or development which may affect the setting of the AONB.
If you are interested in what Local or Neighbourhood Plans are in place or being prepared in your area this information will be available on the website of your local District or Borough Council (search under Planning Policy).
For further information please contact:
Claire Tester MRTPI
High Weald AONB Unit