Planning and the AONB Management Plan
Section 89 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) places a duty on local authorities within an AONB to act jointly to prepare and publish a Management Plan. The Kent Downs AONB Partnership produces the Management Plan on behalf of the 12 local authorities within the Kent Downs.
The Management Plan sets out the special characteristics and qualities of the Kent Downs AONB and formulates the local authorities’ policies for its management and for carrying out their functions in relation to it. These functions include those on plan-making and decision taking for development management.
The Management Plan is a material consideration that should be taken into account when preparing Development Plans and Neighbourhood Plans as well as determining planning applications. It does not form part of the statutory development plan for a local authority*.
Management plan policies for planning (MMP)
While the whole of the Management Plan should be considered in respect of planning decisions, the following policies are considered to be most relevant to the planning process:
- MMP2 Individual local authorities will give high priority to the AONB management Plan vision, policies, and actions in Local Plans, development management decisions, planning enforcement cases and in carrying out other relevant functions.
Sustainable development (SD)
- SD1 The need to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Kent Downs AONB is recognised as the primary purpose of the designation and given the highest level of protection within the statutory and other appropriate planning and development strategies and development control decisions.
- SD2 The local character, qualities and distinctiveness of the Kent Downs AONB will be conserved and enhanced in the design, scale, setting and materials of new development, redevelopment and infrastructure and will be pursued through the application of appropriate design guidance and position statements which are adopted as components of the AONB Management Plan.
- SD3 New development or changes to land use will be opposed where they disregard or run counter to the primary purpose of the Kent Downs AONB.
- SD5 Local renewable and sustainable energy initiatives will be pursued where they help to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and landscape character of the AONB and bring environmental, social and economic benefits to local people. Proposals will be opposed where they do not conform with the Kent Downs AONB Renewable Energy Position Statement.
- SD7 To retain and improve tranquillity, including the experience of dark skies at night, careful design and the use of new technologies should be used. New developments and highways infrastructure which negatively impact on the local tranquillity of the Kent Downs AONB will be opposed unless they can be satisfactorily mitigated.
- SD8 Proposals which negatively impact on the distinctive landform, landscape character, special characteristics and qualities, the setting and views to and from the AONB will be opposed unless they can be satisfactorily mitigated.”
- SD9 The particular historic and locally distinctive character of rural settlement and buildings of the Kent Downs AONB will be maintained and strengthened. The use of locally-derived materials for restoration and conservation work will be encouraged. New developments will be expected to apply appropriate design guidance and to be complementary to local character in form, setting, scale, contribution to settlement pattern and choice of materials. This will apply to all development, including road design (pursed through the adoption and implementation of the AONB Rural Streets and Lanes Design handbook), affordable housing, development on farm holdings (pursued through the farmstead design guidance), and rights of way signage.
- SD10 Positive measures to mitigate the negative impact of infrastructure and growth on the natural beauty and amenity of the AONB will be supported.
- SD11 Where it is decided that development will take place that will have a negative impact on landscape character, characteristics and qualities of the Kent Downs AONB or its setting, mitigation measures appropriate to the national importance of the Kent Downs landscape will be identified, pursed, implemented and maintained. The removal or mitigation of identified landscape detractors will be pursued.
- SD12 Transport and infrastructure schemes are expected to avoid the Kent Downs AONB as far as practicable. Essential developments will be expected to fit unobtrusively into the landscape, respect landscape character, be mitigated by sympathetic landscape and design measures and provide environmental compensation by benefits to natural beauty elsewhere in the AONB.
- LLC1 The protection, conservation and enhancement of special characteristics and qualities, natural beauty and landscape character of the Kent Downs AONB will be supported and pursued.
- HCH5 The application of high standards of design sympathetic to cultural heritage within the AONB, identified in guidance including the AONB Landscape Design Handbook, Kent Downs Farmstead Guidance and any relevant Village Design Statements and Neighbourhood plans, will be pursued.
- BD 5 The protection, conservation and extension of Kent Downs priority and distinctive habitats and species will be supported through the Local Plan process, development management decisions and the promotion of the Biodiversity Duty of Regard (NERC Act 2006).
Farmed landscape (FL)
- FL7 Conversion from agricultural to leisure use and the creation of non-agricultural structures will only be supported where there is not a cumulative loss to the principally farmed landscape of the AONB.
- FL8 Proposals for polytunnels will be assessed for their impact on the AONB landscape, including by reference to their siting and mitigation. Proposals for polytunnels should be justified by an integrated whole farm plan. Best practice guidance for the use and landscaping of polytunnels will be pursued.
Vibrant communities (VC)
- VC8 Local communities will be encouraged to prepare and promote Village Design Statements, Parish Plans and Neighbourhood Plans as appropriate to assist in the conservation and enhancement of local distinctiveness as settlements evolve. These documents should address development requiring planning permission, automatically permitted development and change outside the scope of the planning system.
*This is confirmed in the NPPG (Paragraph: 004 Reference ID: 8-004-20140306) where it is advised that management plans may contribute to setting the strategic context for development by providing evidence and principles which should be taken into account in development plans. It is also confirmed that where Management Plans raise relevant issues, they may be material considerations in determining planning applications. This is reaffirmed in the decision in respect of Appeal Ref: APP/U2235/W/15/3131945, Land west of Ham Lane, Lenham where the Inspector noted that “The Kent Downs AONB Management Plan is also a further significant material consideration” (paragraph 48).