AONBs under 'considerable and growing pressure' from development, research finds

There has been an 82 per cent increase in the number of homes approved in England's 34 areas of outstanding natural beauty since 2012, a study by countryside campaigners has found.

AONBs: development pressures growing
AONBs: development pressures growing

Countryside campaign group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has today published a new report, Beauty betrayed: how reckless housing development threatens England’s AONBs, which the body says "shows clear evidence that housing developers are applying increasing pressure on local authorities to build new homes on AONBs by exploiting poorly defined and conflicting national planning policy."

The report is based on research by data firm Glenigan, commissioned by CPRE, which looked at planning applications and approvals for housing development in and near to AONBs between 2012-2017.

The research found that overall, 15,485 housing units have been approved within AONBs between 2012-2017, while 11,879 housing units were approved within 500 metres of an AONB between 2012-2017.

It found that the number of housing units approved within AONBs increased by 82 per cent between 2012/13 (2,396 units) and 2016/17 (4,369 units).

1,327 units were approved within 500 metres of an AONB boundary in 2012/13 rising to 3,459 units approved in 2016/17 (a 161 per cent increase).

The research document says that AONBs, "especially in the South East and South West of England, are under considerable and growing pressure from large scale housing development".

"The crux of the issue appears to be the pressure placed on local planning authorities (LPAs) to find land for housing to meet ‘objectively assessed need’ irrespective of any constraints imposed by protected landscape policies", the document says.

CPRE’s report calls for the government to strengthen AONB protections in the planning system.

It says that the government should amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) "to state a presumption against proposals for large housing developments in AONBs. It should be made clear, as it is for green belt, that demand for housing or the lack of a five-year supply is unlikely to justify large housing developments in AONBs".

Other recommendations include:

  • Government should "Incorporate the statutory ‘duty of regard’ into the NPPF, making it the overriding factor in decision-making. This requires all relevant authorities with land in an AONB ‘in exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land’ in these areas to ‘have regard’ to the purpose of the AONB".
  • Government should "amend NPPF housing policies to state that new housing in AONBs should generally be affordable and in relation to local needs".
  • Councils should "develop strong, specific policies in local plans that recognise the importance of their AONBs and uphold them in development management decisions".
  • Councils should "make sure all AONB management plans are treated as material considerations and ensure they are appropriately referenced in local plans".

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