Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have been described as jewels of the English landscape and in terms of their landscape value and are considered equal to that of National Parks. There are 46 AONBs in Britain (33 wholly in England, four wholly in Wales, one which straddles the English/Welsh border and eight in Northern Ireland) and they cover 18% of our countryside.
AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.
They are living, working landscapes, much loved and valued by all who enjoy them. They are powerful symbols of our national pride: places of motivation, inheritance, excitement, pleasure and profit. The flora, fauna, history and culture of our AONBs’ lowland heath, wild moor, towering peaks, dramatic gorges, sheer cliffs, gently rolling hills, sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs, quiet coves, rocky shores, sand dunes, saltmarsh and shimmering estuaries ensure they remain Landscapes for Life. (Source: National Association for AONBs)
The smallest AONB is the Isles of Scilly covering only 16 sq km and the largest is the Cotswolds totaling 2,038 sq km.
Three AONBs fall partly within Wiltshire - the Cranbourne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs; the North Wessex Downs; and the Cotswolds. The work of the AONBs is directed by partnerships of organisations (statutory Conservation Board for the Cotswolds), which include relevant local authorities and other key organisations and individuals.
Because of the large areas of Wiltshire covered by the Cranbourne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs and North Wessex Downs AONBs, Wiltshire Council formally hosts these projects and employs the respective AONB teams. The Council also supports all three AONBs with financial contributions and technical assistance. Approximately 44% of Wiltshire Council's area is designated as AONB and is testament to the County's scenic beauty.
Natural England (formally the Countryside Agency) is responsible for designation AONBs and advising Government and others on how they should be protected and managed. Areas are designated for their landscape qualities for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty (which includes landform,geology, plants, animals, landscape features and the rich history of human settlement over the centuries).
Originally designated under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, AONBs were given further protection under the Countryside & Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000. One of the duties of the CRoW Act is for local authorities(or conservation boards) to prepare Management Plans for AONBs that fall within their boundaries.
In 2004, Management Plans were prepared and published for all three Wiltshire AONBs. In March 2008 and 2009 the Management Plans were reviewed, updated and re-published for the Cotswolds, Cranbourne Chase, West Wiltshire Downs and the North Wessex Downs. The Cotswolds AONB Management Plan is currently being reviewed and updated and will be re-published by March 2013.
For more information please visit the following web sites:
- Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire downs
- North Wessex Downs
- Nationally Association of AONBs
- Natural England (AONBs)
- South West Protected Landscapes Forum
Last updated: 28 February 2012