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.
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.
The 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
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
Natural England have produced some useful guidance which can be