Policy P1: Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

GBC Policy

Policy P1: Surrey Hils Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) will be conserved and enhanced to maximise its special landscape qualities and protect it from inappropriate development. All proposals will be considered against whether they:

  • conserve and/or enhance the setting and views of the AONB
  • conserve wildlife, historic objects or natural phenomena within it
  • promote its enjoyment by the community and visitors to the area
  • support the rural economy of the Surrey Hills area
  • provide or maintain public access to the AONB.

Development proposals will also be assessed against the provisions of the current Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan.

Whilst the AONB designation does not preclude specific types of development in the Surrey Hills and proposals will be assessed on their individual merits, there will be a presumption against major development in the AONB in accordance with the NPPF. Exceptions may only be made for proposals that meet both criteria specified in paragraph 116 of the NPPF.

The AGLV will be retained until such time as there has been a review of the AONB boundary. Proposals within the AGLV will be required to demonstrate that they would not result in harm to the AONB or the distinctive character of the AGLV itself.

GGG Response

Summary

We OBJECT to this policy as it stands.

Whilst the Guildford Greenbelt Group welcomes the inclusion of a policy to protect the AONB within its submission draft of the Local Plan, we strongly object to Policy P1 and its supporting text, which we consider has weakened the protection of the AONB and the AGLV from the previous draft Plan. 

Detailed response

Much of our concern stems from the loose wording of the Policy, which in some places renders the policy ineffective, for example:

“All proposals will be considered against whether they…”

“All development proposals within and adjacent to the AONB will be expected to conserve or enhance its special qualities”

Terms such as “considered” and “expected” are not strong enough in prohibiting development proposals that do not conserve and enhance the AONB, and it is likely that developers will be able to use this loose wording to their advantage. Of particular concern is the paragraph 3, which begins:

“Whilst the AONB designation does not preclude specific types of development in the Surrey Hills and proposals will be assessed on their individual merits…”

This whole opening clause is unnecessary and almost invites development proposals. GGG believes that it should be deleted, and the sentence should therefore begin: “There is a presumption against major development in the AONB in accordance with NPPF.”

In addition to the weakness of the language, GGG is also concerned that the AONB criteria listed in the policy are not the most important ones in determining whether a planning application should be approved. Aside from the one outlined in the first bullet point (which relates to the AONB setting) none of these criteria is concerned with the key characteristics of AONB, ie landscape character, scenic beauty, important views, tranquility etc. Whether or not a development supports the rural economy or provides public access are of far less national importance than preserving the quality of the landscape itself.

GGG believes that the AONB Policy in the Draft Plan 2014 provided greater protection to the AONB, and would like to see the following sentences reinserted:

  • “The national significance the AONB will be afforded the highest level of protection and only proposals which can be sensitively amalgamated into the area and which complement and enhance the character of the AONB will be considered”
  • “Proposals within the AGLV which would have a negative impact upon views into and out of the AONB and which do not respect the setting, will not be acceptable”
  • In accordance with the most up to date Minerals and Waste Plan, safeguarding of applicable land within the AONB and/or AGLV may be necessary and deemed appropriate

Finally, GGG would like to see a clause which gives protection to the candidate areas for AONB status in the forthcoming Surrey Hills AONB Boundary Review. We consider that all land that has been assessed as meeting the latest Natural England criteria for AONBs should be subject to the same level of protection as an AONB, not just land that has been designated AGLV.


2017 Guildford Local Plan

Guildford’s NEW local Plan has just opened for consultation. PLEASE RESPOND before 24th July 2017.  GGG has published its responses to Local Plan Policies here 


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