Can you build in an area of outstanding natural beauty? 

What is an area of outstanding natural beauty? 

An area of outstanding natural beauty is (ANOB) is an area of land which is protected by law to preserve and enhance its natural beauty.  

How are AONBs made? 

Natural England can make orders to designate areas of outstanding natural beauty or vary the boundaries of existing ones. Before natural England proposes an area to become an AONB, it must meet the natural beauty criterion. This could be multiple different factors, such as: 

  • Landscape quality. 
  • Scenic quality. 
  • Relative wildness, such as distance from housing or having few roads. 
  • Natural heritage features, such as distinct species and habitat. 
  • Relative tranquillity, where all you can hear is natural sounds. 
  • Cultural heritage. 

How many areas of outstanding natural beauty are there?  

There are 46 AONB in the throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Areas of natural beauty cover about 18% of the UK countryside. The types of natural beauty can range from woodlands, villages, moorlands, and meadows.  

No other country in the world has Areas of outstanding natural beauty.   

Can you get permission to build on an AONB? 

Overall, getting planning permission for a major development is very rare. If the development has a significant impact on the local environment, you should consult natural England about the planning proposal. If the developer can prove that there is a need and actual benefit of the proposed work, there are times where the permissions has been granted.  

Before developing your property, it is important for you to know what rights you have as a property owner in an AONB. Because of the area, your permitted development rights may be reduced, and planning permission grants may become more uncommon. 

Permitted development is a development that you can carry out without needing to apply for full planning permission. You may still need approval under other legislations. 

You might be able to extend a house in an AONB under permitted development if you follow the rules, are some examples: 

It must not go more than 4m beyond the rear wall of the property if it’s a detached house or 3m for any other dwelling. 

Must not be more than 4m high.