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Guildford Borough Council

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications - Part 1: Policies

4.3 Protecting Policies

Policy P1: Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty


4.3.1 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are parts of the countryside considered to have significant landscape value in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. AONBs were originally identified via the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, with the primary purpose to conserve the natural beauty of the landscape. Natural England is currently responsible for the designation and review of AONBs.

4.3.2 The Surrey Hills AONB offers some of the most beautiful and accessible countryside in the South East and includes both striking views and access to natural green space. The designated area covers a large part of our borough, stretching across the North Downs from Farnham through to Oxted in the east.

4.3.3 In addition to the Surrey Hills AONB, the borough contains land designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV), located in parts of the North Downs and which predominantly abuts the Surrey Hills AONB. The designation was originally introduced by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and defined as an area of land in England that has a particular scenic value.

4.3.4 The area currently designated as AGLV was identified through the expired Surrey County Structure Plan and has been carried forward through individual local plans. Whilst the AGLV has acted as a buffer to the AONB, it also has its own inherent landscape quality and is significant in conserving the landscape setting of some towns and villages. The AGLV remains an important contributor to the quality of the environment in the borough in its own right as well as supplementing the high landscape quality of the surrounding areas. However, as a local designation, the AGLV holds less weight than the AONB in policy terms.

POLICY P1: Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Area of Great Landscape Value

(1) The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as shown on the Policies Map, will be conserved and enhanced to maximise its special landscape qualities and scenic beauty.

(2) In accordance with the NPPF, there will be a presumption against major development in the AONB except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

(3) Great weight will be given to the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the AONB and development proposals must have regard to protecting its setting.

(4) Development proposals will also be assessed against the provisions of the current Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan.

(5) The AGLV, as designated on the Policies Map, will be retained until such time as there has been a review of the AONB boundary. Development proposals within the AGLV will be required to demonstrate that they would not harm the setting of the AONB or the distinctive character of the AGLV itself.


Reasoned justification

4.3.5 The NPPF is clear that AONBs should be afforded the highest level of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. All development proposals within and adjacent to the AONB will be expected to conserve or enhance its special qualities.

4.3.6 In considering major applications in the AONB, the Council will have regard to the criteria outlined in Paragraph 172116 of the NPPF. Whether a proposal constitutes 'major development' will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account relevant factors such as the naturesize, scale and setting of the proposed development, and whether it could have a significant adverse impact on the purposes for which the area has been designated.

4.3.7 The AGLV will retain its status until the case for an amended AONB boundary has been considered by Natural England. In September 2013 the Surrey Hills AONB Management Board submitted a formal request for Natural England to consider a modification to the AONB boundary. The request was informed by the findings of a Landscape Character Assessment and Evaluation of natural beauty, which identified 38 candidate areas to be included within the Surrey Hills AONB.

4.3.8 Natural England has subsequently agreed to undertake a review of the AONB boundary and will consider further evidence presented to them. A date has not yet been set for the commencement of the review but the work is included within Natural England's current work programme. Prior to the completion of the review, the identified candidate areas will retain their current status as AGLV not be given any greater status than their current AGLV designation.

4.3.8a Once the AONB boundary review is completed, the AGLV designation within the borough is likely to subside. However, the landscape character of the countryside remaining outside the AONB boundary will be protected and enhanced through criteria based policies, and if appropriate, local designations included within the Development Management Policies DPD.

4.3.9 The Surrey Hills AONB is valued by those that live in the borough and contributes to residents' quality of life. It also attracts visitors to the borough and brings economic investment to the area, thus demonstrating that the AONB has more than just a 'physical' value. The current Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan (2014-2019) acknowledges these wider values and interprets the AONB as a 'living landscape', which constantly changes across seasons and in response to the many social and economic forces placed upon it.

4.3.10 As required by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (the CRoW Act), the Council has a statutory responsibility to prepare and review the AONB Management Plan every five years. The Surrey Hills Board AONB, in collaboration with ourselves and other relevant local authorities and partner organisations, produces the management plan that sets out a vision, framework and management policies to supplement local plans. The document is a key tool in the decision-making process of all districts and boroughs that share the AONB and whom also have a role in its protection. The management plan is a material consideration in determining planning applications within and adjacent to the AONB.

Key Evidence

  • Landscape Character Assessment (Guildford Borough Council, 2007)
  • Surrey Hills AONB Areas of Search Natural Beauty Evaluation (Surrey County Council, 2013)
  • Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan 2014-2019 (Surrey Hills Board, 2014)


Monitoring Indicators



Data source

Percentage of appeals allowed for applications for Number of planning decisions, including appeals, allowing major development in the AONB on sites not allocated in the Plan

Reduction in the percentage of appeals allowed


Planning permissions and appeals