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RESEARCH SHOWS HOUSING BOOM THREATENS FUTURE OF AONBS
HOUSING applications and approvals within some of England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have risen sharply over the last five years, while the proposed scale of developments has increased too, according to a report published today.
Cranborne Chase AONB is not listed among the eight AONBs which account for more than 79% of all housing approvals within AONBs despite having dealt with 17 schemes over the period. Those eight named in the report, which was commissioned by the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), include Cranborne Chase’s near neighbours North Wessex Downs (35 schemes) and Dorset (31), as well as Cotswolds (62), High Weald (58), Cornwall (35), Chilterns (23), South Devon (23) and Kent Downs (22).
Richard Burden, Landscape and Planning Advisor, said: “Cranborne Chase has approvals for houses tight to our boundary near Blandford, Shaftesbury, Warminster and Wimborne, in addition to 80 within the AONB in Tisbury and similar numbers in Blandford and Shaftesbury.
“This AONB is experiencing the replacement of small houses with large ones, which is rather disappointing when the adopted AONB Management Plan and Local Planning Authorities’ (LPAs) Local Plans identify a need for affordable housing,” added Richard, who pointed out that High Weald AONB’s Planning Advisor Claire Tester’s response to a government consultation document Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places raises the issue that building homes in areas of great landscape beauty will tend to attract more buyers rather than depress prices. “Any reduction in house prices might measure not the benefit of extra supply, but the damage to the attractiveness of the area,” he added.
David Dixon and associates Neil Sinden and Tim Crabtree researched and compiled An Independent Review of Housing in England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (2012-2017) and they note “unprecedented growth” in the number of new houses approved in several AONBs as being a response to the country’s growing need for housing. Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places suggested a total annual housing need across the country of 266,000 homes. But paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that major planning permissions in AONBs should be refused, except in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and where it can be demonstrated that the particular development is in the public interest.
Despite this, the CPRE’s report highlights the “increasing concern among LPAs about refusing proposals for housing development on AONB grounds alone”. Additionally, developers are becoming increasingly confident that they can secure permission from LPAs, while AONBs are seen as attractive locations for building that attracts high returns. Appeal successes, however, did decline over the period.
“The research also found that there is a significant lag in the provision of housing, with up to 25% of the houses approved in AONBs over the five years not yet built,” said Richard Burden.
The CPRE has stated that unless the government and local authorities take action now, more beautiful landscapes will be lost forever. It has recommended that all AONBs are given the statutory right to be consulted for major development proposals in their area.
Emma Marrington, CPRE Senior Rural Policy Campaigner, said: “While CPRE advocates the building of the right homes in the right places, AONBs are not the right place. On top of this, current development in AONBs shows little evidence that what’s built will actually help solve the housing crisis, which is more to do with affordability than lack of land.”
On a positive note, the researchers found that many AONB teams, working with local communities and landscape specialists, make small scale housing schemes work alongside the delivery of the AONB ethos. “Achieving the right site selection, layout and design for housing in AONB areas is critical to delivering the high quality, locally distinctive homes that enhance landscape character in AONB areas,” runs the report.
“The purposes of AONB designation are to conserve and enhance natural beauty, and these areas are a limited and diminishing resource,” said Cranborne Chase AONB Director Linda Nunn. “Furthermore, large scale housing development fundamentally changes these nationally important landscapes.”