Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) were created by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and, along with National Parks, they represent the finest examples of countryside in England and Wales. The Isles of Scilly were designated an AONB in 1975.
Natural England is responsible for AONB designation, and advises the Government and others on how they should be managed and protected. Natural England summarises the purpose of AONB designation as:
‘The primary purpose is to conserve and enhance natural beauty. In pursuing this primary purpose, the needs of agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries, and of the economic and social needs of local communities, should be taken into account. Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development, which in themselves conserve and enhance the environment. Recreation is not an objective, but the demand for recreation should be met in so far as this is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses’.
AONB’s are a family of protected landscapes, more than one- third (37%) of South West England is covered by twelve AONB’s and two National Parks. The region’s exceptional environment is recognised as a significant economic asset, especially through tourism, and it also contributes to the social and cultural well-being of resident communities and visitors.
The National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) represent the AONB Family on the national stage, particluarly with regard to environmental and landscape issues. The NAAONB also facilitate the exchange of information between AONBs.