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. If you require a different format please contact us.


Planning Protocol

A copy of the planning protocol, adopted by the South Devon AONB Partnership Committee in March 2020 is available to download from this page. If you require a different format please contact us.

The following is a summary of the protocol, showing how the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is involved in planning and development control issues.


The AONB Unit, acting on behalf of the AONB Partnership, will:
  • Seek to make a positive contribution to the making and revision of development plans (local, unitary and neighbourhood plans) and marine plans relevant to the South Devon AONB.
  • Provide constructive advice and information on AONB matters in response to requests from planning authorities.
  • Provide comments in response to individual development management consultations for proposals that fall within the Consultation Triggers Criteria listed below. The AONB Unit will endeavour to provide a response within 28 days of the date of a consultation request or within such other period as might be agreed between the AONB Unit and the relevant local planning authority.


The local planning authorities will:
  • Refer relevant planning applications to the AONB Unit for comment following the Consultation Triggers Criteria, identifying those applications likely to have a significant impact on the natural beauty of the South Devon AONB at the application registration stage.
  • For proposals that fall outside of the consultation trigger criteria, use the South Devon AONB Management Plan and Planning Guidance Annex to guide decision making on AONB matters against relevant development plan and NPPF policies.
  • Provide access to sufficient details about submitted applications to enable informed comments to be made.
  • Record and treat a written comment from the AONB Unit as a representation from an outside body, rather than as an internal officer comment.
  • In cases where the AONB Unit is unable to respond to a consultation this should not be taken to mean that the Partnership does not consider there to be any (significant) adverse impacts on the purpose of AONB designation. For the avoidance of doubt, the absence of a consultation response must not be taken to mean no objection.
  • Link and signpost as appropriate applicants requiring pre-application advice on designated landscape matters to the separate parallel paid-for service if or when instigated by the South Devon AONB Partnership.
  • Maintain appropriate levels of professional knowledge relating to designated landscape matters including within the development management, strategic planning and landscape functions of the local planning authorities.
  • Send copies of relevant decision notices and any subsequent appeal decisions, to the AONB Unit in relation to applications it has commented on.
  • Assist the AONB Unit in extracting and compiling monitoring data on decision-taking for reports to Defra and the South Devon AONB Partnership Committee.


The AONB Unit will*:
  • Provide a response to development management consultation requests within 28 days of the date of a request or within such other period as might be agreed between the AONB Partnership and the relevant local planning authority.
  • Liaise with case officers, landscape specialists and other relevant specialists as appropriate.
  • Relate comments to relevant Local Plan, Neighbourhood Plan and National Planning Policy Framework policies.
  • Refer to relevant AONB Management Plan policies, natural beauty criteria and AONB special qualities in any comments made.
  • Confirm that comments made are those of the AONB Unit in its professional capacity and not of the AONB Partnership collectively.
  • Support local planning authorities in appeal cases or inquiries where AONB matters are pivotal and as workload allows.
  • Assist with local planning authority staff and elected member training on AONB matters.
  • Continue to direct enquiries for pre-application advice to the relevant local planning authority pre-application service.

*As a small staff team with limited resources, there will be occasions when the AONB Unit will be unable to respond to consultation requests due to the range of other projects, activities and casework being undertaken at any time.


Consultation Triggers Criteria*

The Local Planning Authorities will normally consult the AONB Staff Unit acting on behalf of the South Devon AONB Partnership on proposals that meet the following criteria:

Within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • Major development, as defined in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (Part 1, Article (2)(1)), including housing development of 10 or more dwellings but excluding minerals and waste development (for which Criteria 3-7, below, should be applied). See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 1
  • Isolated homes in the countryside (i.e. development that meets the requirements of paragraph 79 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2019)).
  • Schedule 1 development under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (EIA) Regulations 2017. See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 2
  • Schedule 2 development under the EIA Regulations, including screening opinion and scoping opinion consultations. (For pre-screening, please only consult the Partnership on proposals for 10 or more dwellings under ‘Urban Development Projects’, and all other proposals that are above the Schedule 2 ‘applicable thresholds and criteria’). See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 3
  • EIA Schedule 2 development that the case officer, post-screening, considers likely to have significant adverse environmental effects and, therefore, requires an EIA. See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 4
  • Cases which the case officer considers could potentially be major development in the context of paragraph 172 and footnote 55 of the NPPF 2019. See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, notes 5 & 6
Within or outside the South Devon AONB
  • Cases which the local planning authority case officer considers could potentially:
    • Have a significant adverse impact on the statutory purpose of AONB designation (to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the South Devon AONB), including relevant EIA Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 proposals outside the AONB . See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 6
    • Set an important precedent that could fundamentally affect the statutory purpose of AONB designation. See Appendix 1 of the Planning Protocol, note 6
    • have cumulative significance for the South Devon AONB.
Development management cases that the AONB Partnership should not be consulted on (unless the case matches one or more of the criteria outlined above)
  • Alteration, demolition or change of use of single buildings, including household extensions and replacement buildings.


*With thanks to, and based upon material shared by, the Cotswolds AONB Conservation Board.


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.


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