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Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
& National Scenic Areas
n AONB is designated for its landscape and scenic beauty. This means that an AONB is not necessarily an area of high nature conservation value, but in practice it often includes many areas which are.
The difference between AONBs and National Parks: AONBs and National Parks are actually of equal importance for landscape and scenic beauty, the difference is that AONBs exist for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty. National Parks, in addition to this, have a second purpose - to promote understanding and enjoyment of the area's special qualities by the public. Because of this extra (and substantial) layer of responsibility they have their own independent National Park authorities with full planning powers running them. There are other more subtle differences. The National Parks conservation and enhancement purpose specifically includes "wildlife and cultural heritage". Nowhere in AONB legislation is cultural heritage covered.
AONBs are designated by the Natural England, in England, and the Countryside Council for Wales in Wales. The Scottish equivalent of an AONB is a National Scenic Area, designated by Scottish Natural Heritage. NSAs are not exactly the same as AONBs, and this difference is likely to become more pronounced since devolution.
The designation usually covers a wide area and many types and uses of land. Not all parts of an AONB are necessarily open to the public. In fact, most are not, as they are privately owned just like anywhere else. Towns and villages are sometimes included, and often small areas which are not at all beautiful get included too.
An AONB usually has special funding to help promote good management and sustainable development within it. It also may have planning restrictions to prevent unsympathetic development (see below). Local authorities within an AONB often employ an AONB officer or team to support this. However, although all public bodies have a legal 'duty of regard' for the purposes of AONBs when undertaking their work there are limited statutory duties on local authorities to proactively do anything in an AONB.
AONBs vary greatly in the degree and type and level of funding and activities found there. Some AONBs, such as Chichester Harbour, have their own authorities and are in some ways similar to National Parks. Others have no dedicated staff at all.
National Scenic Areas were first identified in the report "Scotland's Scenic Heritage", published by CCS in 1978, and were accepted as the practical basis for landscape conservation in Scotland. They cover about one million hectares, or approximately one eighths of the land and inland water area of Scotland. As in an AONB, protection is achieved in two ways: through planning control and by encouraging sustainable land management.
• Natural England: includes maps of AONBs and lots of other info.
• The National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty