Outstanding Views - Simon's Blog
Simon's Blog, written 17-9-16
What does an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) actually mean? It is a question that is often asked of me. I suspect most people understand the individual words but like so many things when you put those words together it can create confusion. I’ve heard many explanations from family, friends and those that I work with. These include: It’s all about stopping building. It’s like a public park. It’s to protect the wildlife.
If we turn to what the law says, which I know can sometimes just create further discussion. An AONB’s purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of an area. Like many laws it is about the interpretation of the words. The artist Grayson Perry, whose House for Essex looks onto an AONB, discusses what makes beauty at great length in his book ‘Playing to the Gallery’ and reaches a broad conclusion that beauty is a function of, regular viewing, a balance of features and appreciation by others.
I certainly don’t see the AONB as a park or a way to preserve the area in a particular era. I consider that the AONB should be an evolving area that welcomes opportunities to make it a better place for its people, wildlife and landscapes.
We have recently commissioned a study that outlines what the natural beauty and special qualities of the AONBs are. We use this to support comments on development proposals within the AONB. However, the AONB goes beyond the sometimes academic arguments relating to development applications. To me the AONB is all about making an environmental exemplar that balances the needs of its people, wildlife and outstanding landscapes, which supports so much economic activity and outdoor opportunities.
So what does the AONB designation mean? The AONB is a nationally recognised landscape that residents are rightly proud to live and work in. It can help our declining wildlife. It can generate business through attracting visitors to the area. It can encourage people to get active by giving them the opportunity to walk, ride or paddle in outstanding landscapes. In short AONBs are a good thing for individuals and society.