Over half of the District lies within Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB's), with parts of the Sussex Downs AONB and High Weald AONB falling in Mid Sussex. Designation of the Sussex Downs AONB was confirmed in 1966 followed by the High Weald AONB in 1983. Designation as an AONB gives formal recognition to the national importance of the landscape character of these areas. The primary purpose of designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty.
The High Weald is characterised by dispersed settlement; ancient routeways; an abundance of small ancient woods; gills and shaws; and small irregularly shaped and productive fields. They are all draped over a deeply incised and ridge landform of clays and sandstones, and are loosely related to socio-economic characteristics that have roots deep in history.
The Sussex Downs offers some of the most spectacular and evocative landscape in Southern England - sweeping chalklands where earth meets sky, precipitous scarp slopes, rigged sandstone uplands and intimate clay vales. It is a protected landscape of diversity and contrast.
Development Proposals in AONB's
Development Proposals in AONB's are subject to particular scrutiny to ensure that harm will not be caused to the visual quality and essential characteristics of the AONB's and that opportunities are taken for enhancement. The Council considers that every effort should be made to protect the AONB's from potentially obtrusive development, particularly on exposed sites which are visible from long distances. Design should be of the highest standards to ensure the development contributes to or integrates with the established character in terms of siting, scale, design, choice of external materials and screening/landscaping. To achieve this there is a wide range of local materials/styles to choose from including stock bricks, plain clay tiles, tile hanging, dark stain weatherboarding and Sussex hip roofs, but it is important that design reflects an understanding of the style being followed.
In general, planning controls are more restrictive within AONB's than outside. For example, within the AONB the size of extensions to dwelling houses which may be made without the need for planning permission is less than outside the AONB. There are also additional restrictions for the construction of dormer windows and the application of cladding. Full details are set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and advice can be obtained from the planning department. When considering development proposals in AONB's the Council will have regard to polices in the Mid Sussex Local Plan 2004 and in particular Policy C4 which relates to AONB's.
Management of the AONB's
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a statutory duty for Management Plans to be prepared for AONB's.
The High Weald AONB Joint Advisory Committee of which Mid Sussex is a partner has prepared the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2004. The management plan sets out local authority policy for the AONB and will be used to assess how public bodies, statutory undertakers and holders of public office fulfil their duty to have regard for the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the High Weald. The Council adopted this plan in January 2004 and has regard to it when considering the suitability of proposals for development in the High Weald AONB. The High Weald Management Plan can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
The South Downs Joint Committee published in July 2006 The South Downs Management Plan Consultation Draft. Mid Sussex is a member of this committee. The management plan covers the contiguous areas of the Sussex Downs and East Hampshire AONB's which is the designation boundary of the proposed South Downs National Park. The designation order has not yet been confirmed. The South Downs Joint Committee has also produced the South Downs Planning Guidelines to complement and expand upon the policies contained within the management plan. Both of these documents can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
A map showing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is available here.