The Green Belt & Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
The Green Belt
Green Belts were initially conceptualised within The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 in response to the threat of post-war urban expansion and suburban ribbon development. They function as a planning tool to restrict a city’s peripheral growth into defined ‘greenfield’ areas. Protection is offered through Section 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Bath & Bristol Green Belt is only one of 14 in the UK, a number that is slowly decreasing as more land is released from Green Belt designation for development.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
AONBs are defined as nationally-protected landscapes of natural significance. Within the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, an AONB is an area designated “for the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area.”
Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) have been produced by B&NES Council to help inform sensitive change within AONB settings, including a Landscape Character Assessment and an analysis of Bath’s World Heritage Setting. The Core Strategy & Placemaking Plan sets out specific policies on principles of development within protected natural and historic environments.
The Cotswolds AONB Landscape Character Assessment provides a comprehensive survey of its special landscape and ecological qualities and the physical, human, and historic influences that shaped it.
Today, there are 46 AONBs in the UK. Bath is bordered by the Cotswolds AONB, designated in 1966, that is noted for its charming, historic village vernacular, expansive meadow habitats, and ancient beechwoods. The Mendip Hills AONB, designated in 1972, remains a significant hillside feature of the Somerset landscape south of Bath and Bristol.
Natural England remains responsible for the designation of AONBs. However, local authorities retain powers of maintenance and development in AONBs, and is also responsible for the allocation of Green Belt land.
The preservation and enhancement of AONBs should be considered in all planning decisions and development schemes, with the advisory support of Natural England. The Cotswold Conservation Board develops position statements on key issues and strategies affecting the AONB, as part of its broader AONB Management Plan.