Around half of the District lies within the High Weald Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Designation of the High Weald AONB was confirmed 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
The High Weald is characterised by dispersed settlements, 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.
Further information on the High Weald can be found on the High Weald AONB website (external link).
Development Proposals in AONBs
Development proposals in AONBs are subject to particular scrutiny to ensure that harm will not be caused to the visual quality and essential characteristics of the AONBs and that opportunities are taken for enhancement. The Council considers that every effort should be made to protect the AONBs 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 AONBs 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 AONBs, the Council will have regard to polices in the Mid Sussex Local Plan 2004 and in particular, Policy C4 which relates to AONBs.
Management of the AONBs
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a statutory duty for Management Plans to be prepared for AONBs.
The High Weald AONB Joint Advisory Committee of which Mid Sussex is a partner has prepared the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2014-2019. 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 Management Plan in February 2014 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:
High Weald AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 (external link)