What is a National Landscape?

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National Landscapes

National Landscapes (previously known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)) are some of the UK’s most outstanding and treasured landscapes. The Surrey Hills National Landscape is a protected area conserved and enhanced for its natural beauty and habitat, as well as a landscape protected for the enjoyment of the nation.

National Landscapes (or AONBs) are on par with the UK’s National Parks, each AONB is an outstanding landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty is so precious that it is safeguarded in the national interest. With 46 AONBs covering just under 1/5th of the UK, they offer a wealth of opportunities for both people and wildlife to benefit from our countryside.

What is the purpose of a National Landscape?

The legislation that created National Landscapes (previously AONBs) was the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 which came about after the Second World War in response to increasing pressure for new development. The government of the day decided to formally recognise the fact that the countryside of England and Wales has a rich diversity of scenery, which is of great value and worthy of protection.

Over the past 40 years the pressures on the countryside have increased and in 2000 the Countryside Rights of Way Act, (CROW) addressed that challenge. The act confirmed that National Landscapes shared with National Parks have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

The Surrey Hills National Landscape

The Surrey Hills was one of the first landscapes in the country to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1958. The Surrey Hills AONB stretches across rural Surrey, covering a quarter of the county.

The purpose of the National Landscape (previously AONB) designation is to conserve the natural beauty of the landscape. The vision for the Surrey Hills recognises that the landscape will change but it needs to ensure that it changes in a way that conserves and enhances its special qualities. In doing so, it also needs to maintain the social and economic viability of the Surrey Hills in a sustainable manner.

“The Surrey Hills National Landscape is recognised as a national asset in which its natural and cultural resources are managed in an attractive landscape mosaic of farmland, woodland, heaths, downs and commons. It provides opportunities for business enterprise and for all to enjoy and appreciate its natural beauty for their health and wellbeing.”

Each National Landscape create a management plan which is reviewed every five years, and the Surrey Hills has a ‘family’ structure to enable the delivery of the plan. The Surrey Hills Management Plan is one of a national family of Plans. There are 34 National Landscapes (previously AONBs) in England, covering 15% of the land area, and a further 4 in Wales and 8 in Northern Ireland. National Landscapes are designated by Government for the purpose of ensuring that the special qualities of our finest landscapes are conserved and enhanced.

The National Association

The National Association of AONBs (NAAONB) is the voice of the AONB partnerships and conservation boards and represents the AONB family on national issues including policy and advocacy, communications, training and securing resources. They provide an opportunity for collaborative working between individual AONBs through sharing best practice, ideas and approaches to issues common across AONBs.

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