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What is a National Landscape (AONB)?

July 2023

A National Landscape (formerly known as an Area of Natural Beauty) is land that has been specially designated for protection due to its landscape and features.

A National Landscape (formerly known as an Area of Natural Beauty/AONB) is land protected by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to enhance, preserve and conserve its natural beauty. To designate a National Landscape, Natural England must ensure that it meets the ‘natural beauty criterion’, and considers factors such as landscape or scenic quality, relative wildness or tranquillity, natural heritage features or cultural heritage.

There are 46 National Landscapes in the UK (referred to as a National Scenic Area – NSA – in Scotland). In the South-West, these include the Cranborne Chase & West Wiltshire Downs National Landscapes and the Dorset National Landscape, which stretches from Blandford Forum in the east to Lyme Regis and incorporates much of the Dorset coastline. The North Wessex Downs National Landscape lies to the north and Blackdown Hills to the west.

Do I live in a National Landscape?

This interactive map can help you identify whether you live in a National Landscape or not.

Can I make build a house or make changes to my house if it is in an National Landscape?

Some permitted development rights and changes of use are allowed in National Landscapes, depending on where you are. However, for most development, you must apply for a minimum of householder planning permission. Some works will be subject to restriction depending on their size and location in relation to any existing building.  

Gaining planning permission for a development in a National Landscape can be a longer process than usual. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the government’s planning policies for England and covers the works that can be done in National Landscapes. Generally speaking, major development in National Landscapes will be refused unless the circumstances are exceptional.

How is a National Landscape different to a National Park?

A National Landscape is equivalent in planning status to a National Park.

Things to consider when designing a house in a National Landscape

Any development in a National Landscape must be designed to minimise the impact on the local environment. The works must be sensitively located, and consider the effects of any light glare/pollution on the surrounding land. Ways the development could protect and enhance biodiversity and promote the conservation of habitats should also be considered.

National Landscapes and Planning Permission

As with all planning permissions, decisions on development in National Landscapes are made by the relevant planning authority. Obtaining planning permission in a National Landscape can, however, take significantly longer. Permission for major development in a National Landscape is rarely granted.

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RBA and National Landscapes

RBA have designed works to several homes in National Landscapes, including Wildflower Retreat, The Old Rectory and Jurassic House.

On some of these, we worked with planning consultants, such as Atlas Planning, to help us liaise with the local authority. This meant we could concentrate on the design work, while they handled any planning department queries.

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