Guidance for Planning in the National Landscape

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were designated under Section 87 of the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

Whilst the name of Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was changed in November 2023 to the Dedham Vale National Landscape, the legal designation remains the same and therefore for the purposes of planning and statutory work, the Dedham Vale AONB will continue to be used.

Any area of land being considered for designation as AONB, is assessed against a set of defined Natural Beauty indicators.

The full designation process is set out in Natural England’s 2011 document Guidance for assessing landscapes for designation as National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England (PDF).

The AONB Team/Partnership has commissioned a number of reports to ensure that the primary purpose of designation, the conservation and enhancement of the AONB’s natural beauty, is properly considered in the planning process.

Natural Beauty indicators are Landscape Quality, Scenic Quality, Relative Wildness, Relative Tranquillity. Natural Heritage Features and Cultural Heritage Features. These define Natural Beauty. The AONB Partnership has commissioned a number of reports to ensure that the primary purpose of designation, the conservation and enhancement of the AONB’s natural beauty, can be properly considered in the planning process.

The Selection and Use of Colour in Development (PDF)

The purpose of this document is to provide direction and guidance on the selection and use of colour for building development within the AONB.

‘Development’ includes any building work, ranging from home extensions and conversions through to mass house building, agricultural and industrial premises, and retail and office buildings.

It also includes infrastructure developments associated with transport, flood defences, power generation and distribution communications and other utilities.

Landscape view of field

Natural Beauty and Special Qualities of the AONB (PDF)

This report was prepared by Alison Farmer Associates on behalf of The

Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership in 2016.

The aim of the study was to review, gather and present evidence on the natural beauty and special qualities of the existing AONB in order to clearly articulate why it is one of England's nationally valued landscapes.

Valued Landscape Assessment Stour Valley Project Area (PDF)

The Stour Valley Project Area lies immediately adjacent to the Dedham Vale AONB. The Stour Valley Project Area extends upstream of the AONB, following the River Stour, forming the boundary between Essex and Suffolk.

The Project Area covers 302 km2 and extends westwards from the AONB boundary at Wormingford, towards the Cambridgeshire border following the Stour river valley.

The Project Area does not benefit from the same statutory protection as the AONB. Parts of it however are considered to exhibit similar qualifying characteristics as the nationally designated AONB and it is therefore considered a Valued Landscape.

The AONB team commissioned Alison Farmer Associates to undertake a Valued Landscape Assessment of the Stour Valley Project Area. The assessment was commissioned to ensure that the Project Area, as a Valued Landscape, is properly considered at the plan making and planning application stages.

Neighbourhood Plans & Landscape (PDF)

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Localism Act 2011 gave new powers to local communities to prepare Neighbourhood Plans.

Neighbourhood Plans can be prepared by local town or parish councils or by a Neighbourhood Plan Forum within non-parished areas. They provide an opportunity for local people to guide how their locals areas changes and develops over a 10-15 year period.

Neighbourhood Plans include policies that reflect local priorities including the right type of development for their community or the protection of locally valued open spaces.

Neighbourhood Plans can promote development and some of the Neighbourhood Plans already made or under preparation in Suffolk fall within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Landscape will be an important consideration for local councils preparing Neighbourhood Plans that fall within the AONB.

The AONB team commissioned guidance explaining how landscape should be considered as part of the Neighbourhood Plan process

Lighting Guidance for the National Landscapes (PDF)

To help conserve the dark skies of both the Dedham Vale and Coast & Heaths National Landscapes (formerly AONBs), Darkscape Consulting were commissioned to produce a new Lighting Guide for these two designated landscapes.

The ability to enjoy the areas’ dark skies is at risk from increasing development pressures, the use of inappropriate or incorrect lighting and from poor design that fails to consider sources of light pollution and effective mitigation.

While the guide is intended to be used by developers, architects and planners, it will be of interest to anyone who enjoys star gazing and is keen to conserve our amazing night skies.