Planning within an AONB
Unlike National Parks, AONBs do not have their own independent planning authorities. Instead, for planning purposes, AONBs are under the jurisdiction of local district, borough and county councils.
However, when local planning authorities make development and planning decisions, they consider the impact any proposed developments might have on the AONB.
A management plan for the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty helps guide the work and activities of all organisations, groups and individuals with a responsibility or interest in the Blackdown Hills AONB. This is reviewed every five years.
The management plan does not form part of any local development plan. Nevertheless, it is a vitally important document in the planning system, because:
- It provides a basis for identifying those aspects of the AONB which are critical in contributing to its natural beauty
- It could influence development planning policy
- It may also be a consideration in individual planning applications and appeals.
The role of the AONB in planning
Our role is to provide local councils with professional, targeted advice on planning within Blackdown Hills AONB.
Each year, around 400 planning and related applications are submitted to local planning authorities concerning Blackdown Hills AONB. Our planning officer is not consulted as a matter of course on every planning application in the area.
It is up to the local planning authorities to decide whether to seek our advice. Although we can comment on applications we feel are of concern, even if we are not consulted.
We only comment on proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on the natural beauty of the Blackdown Hills AONB.
What do we mean by ‘natural beauty’?
‘Natural beauty’ relates to the overall look of the landscape and to aspects such as:
- Wildlife and habitats
- Historic monuments and places
- Architectural traditions and building materials
- The area’s cultural heritage
- Tranquillity and low levels of light pollution
- Landforms, such as plateaux, hills and valleys
- Landscape features, for example field patterns, hedgerows, hill forts and other landmarks
- The underlying geology
The impact of development proposals on any of these aspects of the AONB’s ‘natural beauty’ may be considered.
What we don’t do
We do not prepare statutory planning documents or determine planning applications. We are not a pressure group or campaign organisation. We do not comment on applications which have a limited impact, for example residential extensions.
Local planning authorities for Blackdown Hills AONB
The local authorities responsible for planning within Blackdown Hills AONB are:
If you have any queries or questions about how AONB status may affect your development proposals or planning applications, we recommend that you contact the planning department of the relevant local authority. See map below showing AONB boundary and parishes (relates to Somerset councils pre-April 2023).