Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

View of Goodrich from Coppett Hill
View of Goodrich from Coppett Hill Pauline E

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are increasingly under threat from development.

Since 2012, the amount of greenfield land in England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that will be built on has more than doubled (129% increase).

Worse still, this development is ‘land hungry’ and doing little to solve the affordable housing crisis.

CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling on the government to halt this reckless development and prevent high levels of housing pressure in AONBs through the upcoming Planning Bill.

Threats to AONBs

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are some of our most precious landscapes, which many people would expect to mean that they are safe from being built on. But even though these areas have the strongest protections available in planning law, they are falling foul to an increasing amount of rapid and reckless housing development, according to new analysis from CPRE.

Threats to England’s 34 AONBs from development is increasing at an alarming rate – Beauty still betrayed: The state of our AONBs 2021 report reveals a 129% increase in the amount of greenfield land planned to be built over. The research, conducted by Glennigan Consultancy on behalf of CPRE, has found that high housing pressure is also being applied to land around AONBs, with the number of homes built in the setting (within 500 meters of the boundary) increasing by 135% since 2012.

It is clear this kind of sprawling development is bad for people, nature and the countryside. The research found that the developments on AONBs use up twice as much land compared to the national average for developments. Yet only 16% of the homes built in AONBs are considered affordable even by the government’s own definition. Clear evidence shows that the real affordability of housing in many rural areas is much worse than the government estimates. Tragically, the kind of housing currently being provided will do little to tackle the affordable housing crisis, while concreting over precious countryside and setting back action to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

Focusing on nature and countryside communities

Commenting on the findings, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘The fact that some of our most highly-prized areas of countryside are being lost to build more executive homes says a great deal about our planning system. Continuing with this ‘build and be damned’ approach just serves to line the pockets of greedy developers whilst undermining climate action, stalling nature’s recovery and gobbling up our most precious green space that’s vital for our health and wellbeing, all while doing next to nothing to tackle the affordable housing crisis.

‘Rural communities are crying out for well-designed, quality and genuinely affordable homes in the right places. We know this kind of development is possible. To start building the right nature-friendly and low carbon homes in the right places, we must see a swift change of tack from the government to put nature and countryside communities at the heart of any future Planning Bill. Continuing to give developers more power in the planning system will only make this bad situation worse.’

It is also interesting to note the north/south divide when it comes to threats to our AONBs, with particular pressure on AONB land in the south west and south east of England.

Read the full CPRE report: Beauty still betrayed: The state of our AONBs 2021