Main Changes to Local Plan 2030

Policy ENV3 - Landscape Character and Design (MC71)

Page 232 Policy ENV3

Response to reps 1302; 2422;1510

Response to reps 1711, 1719

Response to reps 1302; 2422;1510

Proposed amendments to Landscape Character Assessments section:

Introduce a new section on ‘setting of AONB’ as supporting text after paragraph 5.313:

Setting of the AONB

Ashford benefits from two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) within its area – the Kent Downs and the High Weald. AONBs are designated by the Government for the purpose of ensuring that the special qualities of our finest landscapes are conserved and enhanced. In planning policy terms they often have an equivalent status to National Parks, and are to be given the highest level of landscape protection. Section 82 of The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 confirms that the primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.

Where appropriate, local authorities are required to take into consideration the setting of an AONB when determining planning applications, in accordance with duties under Section 85 of the 2000 CROW Act. Section 85 places a statutory duty on all relevant authorities requiring them to have regard to the statutory purpose of AONBs when coming to decisions or carrying out their activities relating to, or affecting land within these areas.

Although the NPPF does not specifically refer to setting in the context of AONBs, the Planning Practice Guidance explains the legal duties of local planning authorities in relation to AONBs as per the above. Paragraph: 003 Reference ID: 8-003-20140306 adds:

“The duty is relevant in considering development proposals that are situated outside National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boundaries, but which might have an impact on the setting of, and implementation of, the statutory purposes of these protected areas.”

The Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs have precise geographical borders based on an assemblage of unique landscape character. In addition to this, the settings comprise land adjacent to or within close proximity of the AONB boundary, which is visible from the AONBs and from which the AONBs can be seen. The setting may be wider in certain circumstances, for example when affected by features such as noise and light. In some cases the setting area will be compact and close to the AONB boundary, perhaps because of natural or human made barriers or because of the nature of the proposed change.

Generally speaking, the settings of AONBs within the borough are of a high scenic quality, are of importance for rarity, tranquillity, representativeness and variety of local landscapes, and are unspoilt by large-scale intrusive development. Their characters are common with the AONBs, including topographic and visual unity, with a clear sense of place, and usually aspects of historical, wildlife and/or architectural conservation interest.

Scale, height, siting, use, materials and design are factors that will determine whether a development affects the natural beauty and special qualities of the AONB. Compatibility with surroundings, movement, reflectivity and colour are important in considering impact on setting. Generally, the further away a development is from the AONB boundary, the less the impact on this designation.

Within the setting of the AONBs, priority will be given over other planning considerations to the conservation or enhancement of natural beauty, including landscape, wildlife and geological features, while recognising that landscape considerations carry less weight than within these designations. At the same time, due regard will be had to the economic and social well-being of the area.