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Planning applications in the Northumberland Coast AONB

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Did you know every planning application in the AONB is looked at for its impact on the designated landscape? Sarah Winlow, our Historic and Built Environment Officer, explains more.

Think Northumberland Coast AONB, think gloriously wide-open beachesdynamic sand dunes and rugged headlands... but don’t the castles, the harbours, the historic villages - all backed by a rich, green coastal plain of rolling fields - pop into mind too? This distinctive and beautiful backdrop to our fantastic coastline – where people live, work and visit – is a result of centuries of human interaction with the landscape, and that human interaction continues as time passes and communities change 

Yet that distinct and beautiful character and appearance of the landscape – those ‘special qualities’ for which in 1958 the Northumberland Coast was given recognition as one of England’s finest landscapes in its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – can be altered, diluted and diminished by change. It is for this reason planning applications are assessed with the aim of ensuring development both conserves and enhances what we all love about the Northumberland Coast AONB 

A lot has changed since the late 1950s, and development pressure on the Northumberland Coast is intenseIn addition to householder applications, a substantial number of applications relate to the visitor economy and, given the recognition of the Northumberland Coast as one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations, the Covid19 pandemic and the trend for staycations, this pressure is likely to increase.   

Whilst the AONB Partnership is not a statutory consultee to the planning system, the National Planning Policy Framework accords ‘great weight’ to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty. Local authorities do have statutory duty (under S.85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of AONBs in exercising or performing any of their functions, and this includes planning.  

The Northumberland Coast AONB’s Management Plan cascades from this regulatory framework and the policies therein provide the starting point for the assessment of each planning applicationOur overall goal for development in the Northumberland Coast AONB is that it should enhance the character of settlements and the wider landscape and to ensure that any negative effects on the natural and cultural heritage of the AONB are avoided, remedied or mitigated. 

To assist developers in achieving this goal, the AONB Partnership has a Design Guide for the Built Environment. Currently undergoing a refresh (more on this in a future newsletter), the Design Guide sets out the principles of good design, describes the special qualities of the area, and then considers each development type common to the Northumberland Coast. It is an essential guide for anyone considering submitting a planning application. The AONB Partnership staff team also encourage developers to get in touch to discuss proposals pre application (this can be out with the formal planning process). If you’d like to discuss a forthcoming development, please contact Sarah or Jessica.    

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