South Devon AONB Follaton House,
Plymouth Road, Totnes TQ9 5NE


Tel: 01803 229330


Responding to planning

Planning in South Devon AONB

There are four Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) who are responsible for planning applications within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) boundary; South Hams District CouncilTorbay CouncilPlymouth City Counciland Devon County Council. It is these organisations that create the planning policies that apply to the AONB, and also determine planning permissions within the AONB. If you have any concerns or questions regarding planning policy or a planning application, you should contact your Local Planning Authority for advice and guidance.


Comments submitted by the AONB Unit are available to view on the Council’s websites

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the South Devon AONB Office in respect of planning matters?

Whilst the South Devon AONB Partnership is a non-statutory consultee with regard to planning policies and decisions, it does influence the planning process in the following ways:


  • Assistance in preparing Local Plans with Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) including district wide strategy and planning policy development.
  • Provide specialist advice to LPAs on individual planning applications that are classified as major developments, or as having a significant effect on the natural beauty of the AONB.
  • The AONB Partnership also supports the preparation of Parish Plans which can contribute to the conservation and enhancement of the AONB.

How does the AONB designation affect planning?

Planning applications in the AONB do not have to be judged differently from those outside; national planning policy requires that conserving and enhancing natural beauty must be given great weight in AONBs.


The AONB is a protected landscape, and as such your proposal will need to adhere to local planning policy and not detract from the natural beauty of the AONB. To find out more about policies and guidance relevant to your proposal and the likelihood of it being approved contact the relevant local planning authority.


The AONB may be a consideration in larger development proposals outside the AONB boundary, if the proposals might have a significant impact on the setting of the AONB.

Is the AONB designation likely to affect my proposed development?

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to ‘conserve and enhance’ the natural beauty of the landscape. The Government has confirmed that AONBs are equivalent in planning status to National Parks, in terms of their landscape quality and scenic beauty.


The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives LPAs  a legal duty to have regard to the conservation and enhancement of the AONB in carrying out planning and other functions. This includes any applications assessed at a county or national level, including infrastructure and utilities.


In addition, the statutory AONB Management Plan, though not a part of the formal planning system, is a material consideration affecting planning decisions and is a driver for policy change.

I am upset about a planning application in the AONB. What should I do?

Your first point of contact should be the relevant LPA. You may be able to see details and plans for the application on their website or otherwise at their offices. You will also be able to find out what other comments have been made about the application.

Why does the AONB Office not object to more planning applications?

The South Devon AONB Unit works alongside LPAs to ensure that our primary aim of ‘protecting and enhancing the natural environment’ is represented in planning policy. Planning Officers give regard to the ‘protected landscape’ status of the AONB when considering applications that could have an impact on the AONB.


The South Devon AONB Unit is a progressive organisation that wants to see a sustainable future for the area and so may support developments which it feels contribute to a living and working, sustainable landscape.

How can individuals get involved in shaping the planning system?

Your LPA has a duty to consult the public when creating planning strategy and policy. Your LPA will be able to advise you when the next phase of consultations or policy review is expected to happen, and how you can get involved.

Where can I get a detailed map of the AONB boundary?

You can view a detailed map on the website run by Natural England on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Navigate to the interactive map and select ‘Rural Designations – Statutory’ and then find an area by searching for a postcode or village, for example. The display changes to 1:25000 and 1:10000 Ordnance Survey mapping by zooming in so an area can be seen in detail. Other statutory datasets can be turned off by clicking on ‘List of Layers’ and un-ticking the boxes of the relevant sets.

Useful Links

Planning Aid – This service is offered by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and offers free, impartial planning advice to individuals and communities.

Neighbourhood Planning – Some valuable information on the process of neighbourhood planning, sources of help and funding can be found on the My Community Rights website.

National Planning Policy, Circulars and Guidance – Information on the latest national planning consultations, guidance, circulars and legislation produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government can be found on the GOV.UK website

Heritage – Information on historic sites and buildings can be found on the Heritage Gateway website or by contacting the Local Planning Authority.

The AONB Unit has produced a Planning Guidance Document, a copy can be downloaded on the right.


This is a summary of the protocol which was endorsed by the planning authorities in September 2003 and shows how the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is involved in planning and development control issues.


The AONB office will:

  • Seek to make a positive contribution to regional, local and unitary planning policies affecting the AONB through the development plan process.
  • Provide constructive advice and information relating to development proposals and planning policy in response to requests from planning authorities.
  • Comment on individual development proposals in cases where they would have a significant impact* on the character of the AONB or where they would establish an important precedent for future applications.


The Planning Authorities will:

  • Continue to give the AONB the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty, through the exercise of their planning functions, and to reflect this in appropriate planning policies.
  • Consider adopting relevant sections of the AONB Management Plan as Supplementary Planning Guidance.
  • Involve the Partnership as a consultee in the process of revising and producing Structure, Local or Unitary Development Plans (or any equivalent Plans following changes to planning legislation).
  • Involve the Partnership, through the AONB Manager, as a consultee on any planning applications significantly affecting* the character of the AONB (whether sited inside the AONB or in the areas closely adjoining it).


Examples of significant development proposals could include:

  • Infrastructure development proposals (such as roads, car parks, communication and energy generation or transmission facilities).
  • Any tower or similar structures that would be visible over a wide area of the AONB.
  • Developments which would affect currently undeveloped and remote areas of coastline and estuaries.
  • Developments that would impact on popular recreational trails such as the South West Coast Path and estuary trails in the AONB, whether by affecting the route of the trail itself or the quality of experience for users of the trails.


Development of renewable energy

The Partnership Committee of the South Devon AONB is committed to adopting a positive approach to the development of renewable energy technologies in the area, while at the same time having regard for the primary statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area.

The South Devon AONB’s position statement on renewable energy can be downloaded on the right.


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