What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?


The Northumberland Coast is one of a national “family” of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which together cover 20,000 square kilometres - 15.6% of the land area - of England and Wales.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas.  There are 40 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further seven in Northern Ireland.
Click here to find out more about the family of AONBs


The primary purpose of the AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area, now and for future generations.  The designation gives a formal recognition to an area’s landscape importance and allows for the development of communities and economic activity.  However development is only permitted in ways that enhance the landscape character of the AONB.

kite surfs at Budle Bay (C) Gavin DuthieThe enabling legislation for AONBs was the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 which came about shortly after the Second World War and in response to the increasing pressure of 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.

This led to the first AONB designation in 1956 - the Gower Peninsula. Two years later in 1958, the Northumberland Coast was designated as an AONB.

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 AONBs shared with National Parks the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.  The government also placed new responsibilities on local authorities to ensure further protection for designated landscapes.

The CROW Act sets out a useful legal framework for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Natural England is responsible for designating AONBs in England and advising Government and others on how they should be protected and managed.

Natural England have produced some useful guidance which can be found here




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Approaching Holy Island Breathtaking views on foot St Aidans in Bamburgh One of our many cycle routes Volunteer working hard Beadnell Bay


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