Q and A session

Lively Q and A session at planning presentation

50 people attended a presentation in Kingsbridge last week given by Adam Royle,  Senior External Affairs Adviser to the National Trust concerning the findings of a report they commissioned about decision making on development in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The South Devon AONB Partnership Committee had requested that a special meeting be held to hear more about the study and its key recommendations, and to make this open to the public to attend.


The report was commissioned by the National Trust in 2015 to examine a series of 15 case studies in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty throughout England where AONB partnerships had objected to a scheme but approval had been given and to draw conclusions. These included a solar array, agricultural development, housing development and strategic site allocation.


The  key conclusions from the analysis of these case studies were that :

  • The ‘duty of regard’ for AONBs was not being formally noted in planning reports
  • Inadequate attention is being given to national policy and procedure by some decision makers.
  • In at least 10 out of the 15 examples ‘great weight’ was not given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONBs concerned
  • In the majority of ‘major development’  cases the need to show ‘exceptional circumstances’ and that the development was ‘in the public interest’ was carried out  only weakly.


As a result of these conclusions and others, the report resulted in a series of recommendations including that decision makers in AONBs should apply appropriate tests when deciding planning applications for development within AONBs. A full copy of the report can be accessed at: National Trust report


A question and answer session followed the presentation,  and various local queries and issues were addressed by the panel of Adam Royle, AONB Manager Roger English, National Trust South Devon Countryside  Manager Richard Snow and Consultant Dave Dixon working for the South Devon AONB.


AONB Manager Roger English explained that the South Devon  AONB Unit has in draft format a Planning Guidance document which is currently open for consultation until midnight on Tuesday 16th August. It can be accessed via the AONB website at – Planning Guidance Consultation .  It is hoped that the eight section document will be adopted as guidance by the local planning authorities of South Hams, Torbay, Plymouth, Devon County Council and the Marine Management Organisation in the form of a supplementary planning  document. The intention is to strengthen the decision making process and improve the consideration given to the AONB, its natural beauty and special qualities. The guidance covers a range of development types including Housing, Estuary-side, Tourism and Renewable Energy.


Roger English said ‘We are encouraging everyone with a personal or professional interest in the AONB to have a look at the online planning guidance document and feedback their views. The South Devon AONB Planning Guidance document seeks to support and facilitate appropriate, high quality sustainable development in the designated area that is consistent with conserving and enhancing the special qualities of the AONB, yet also contributes to the sustainable use and management of the area’s rich natural and cultural assets.’