Thursday, 10 September 2020

Surrey Hills AONB Boundary Review


The Surrey Hills AONB was only the second landscape to be designated in England and the boundary had not been reviewed since its original designation in 1958.  Significant parts of the adjacent countryside outside the AONB had been designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) and the Surrey Hills Board felt this area was now worthy of review.

The AONB Partnership commissioned landscape consultants Hankinson Duckett Associates (HDA) to conduct a search for areas that might be considered for re-designation as AONB.  The first stage was to review the Surrey Landscape Character Assessment ‘The future of Surrey’s landscape and woodlands’ from 1997. This would bring it in to line with current Natural England character assessment guidance of 2002 and create a framework for evaluation as recommended by the earlier consultants Alison Farmer Associates. Landscape character assessment is a systematic way of analysing the elements that make one area of landscape different in character to another, but makes no judgment on landscape quality.

The second stage was to conduct a search within this framework, looking for candidate areas that met the criteria which contribute to natural beauty as set out in the current Natural England Guidance published in March 2011.

In November 2013, the Surrey Hills AONB Board formally submitted a request that Natural England (NE) consider a modification to the AONB boundary based on 38 candidate areas recommended by HDA. Nutfield Ridge was included in the suggested boundary revision. In February 2014, the NE Board agreed to consider the evidence submitted on the candidate areas.

The formal process for seeking a modification requires an assessment by NE to determine if the candidate areas submitted meet the statutory criteria of an AONB. There are various stages to go through, including regulatory assessments and, ultimately, the decision rests with the Environment Secretary. Unfortunately, NE had already committed to deliver the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB boundary review at the time of their Board’s decision to review the Surrey Hills situation.  Due to the complexity of the process they were therefore unable to commence the Surrey Hills review until completion of the Suffolk review.

The NE Board finally approved the Suffolk Coast and Heaths (Designation Variation) Order 2019 on 22 July 2019 and the legal paperwork was submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation. The Secretary of State confirmed the Order on 7 July 2020, which clears the way for the Surrey Hills AONB boundary review to proceed to the next stage.

See > Surrey Hills boundary-review with recommended additional areas

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