The Great Mew Stone



What is an AONB?

In 1949 the government decided to protect identified areas of natural beauty for future generations as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). For further details on AONBs visit the Defra website or the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty website.

What does it mean in practice?

It means the landscape is protected and must be managed in certain specific ways. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gave a responsibility to local authorities who fall within AONB areas to produce a Management Plan to set out ways the AONB landscape will be managed.  In South Devon the local authorities falling within the AONB are Devon County, South Hams, Torbay and Plymouth.  Historically, these four authorities have agreed for the AONB Partnership to undertake the review of the Management Plan on their behalf. The reviews take place every 5 years in consultation with communities and agencies active within the AONB.  For more information go to our Management Plan pages.

What's special about South Devon AONB?

Our AONB is loved for its rugged cliffs, sandy coves, peaceful countryside, pretty villages, rolling hills, secretive estuaries and dark night skies.  It is ancient and has generations of human activity etched into its landscape.  The area is popular with locals and visitors alike and offers both quiet inspiration and a wide range of recreational opportunities.

Where is South Devon AONB?

South Devon AONB covers 337 kilometres (130 square miles) of coastline, estuaries and countryside.  It stretches from Berry Head in Brixham to Jennycliff in Plymouth and covers, or part covers the towns of Modbury, Salcombe, Kingsbridge and Dartmouth and includes 5 estuaries: Yealm, Erme, Avon, Salcombe-Kingsbridge and Dart .  View a map of the AONB and the parishes and wards within and partially in the AONB (924KB image).

Who manages the AONB?

The management of South Devon AONB is coordinated by a Partnership Committee made up of local and national organisations, and community representatives from farming, business, parish council, voluntary and professional environmental organisations.  Elections for the community representatives take place every three years.  The AONB Unit, a small staff team, act on behalf of the Partnership to co-ordinate and implement the targets and actions outlined in the Management Plan.  For more information, visit looking after the AONB.

What powers does the AONB have?

The AONB Partnership has the power to give advice and guidance.  It is responsible for producing a Management Plan, a guidance document that planners, land managers and others are encouraged to use when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.  It is in fact the local authorities and government agencies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency and English Heritage that have powers through planning and other legislation to protect the AONB landscape and aspects of designated features within it.

How does the AONB deal with planning?

The South Devon AONB Partnership does not have the authority to permit or refuse development, instead it is consulted by the relevant Planning Authorities (South Hams District Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council) on developments in the AONB in accordance with an agreed protocol.  Any comments in relation to landscape impacts will be considered by the Planning Authority in the same way as other consultations. It is important to stress that the AONB Partnership is not a statutory consultee and has no statutory planning function, unlike National Parks. The AONB Manager responds on behalf of the Partnership, where appropriate and as resources allows.  For further information on this and to view our Renewable Energy Position Statement go to our planning pages.

What's the difference between AONBs and National Parks?

They have the same status in terms of protection.  The main differences are that National Parks are required to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities by the public, and are administered by National Park Authorities which control planning and development and co-ordinate management activities. In AONBs, planning and development control functions are administered by the local authorities.

How is the AONB Partnership and Staff Unit funded?

75% of the South Devon AONB core budget (which includes Partnership running costs and the South Devon AONB staff costs) is funded by DefraSouth Hams District Council contribute 13% and Devon County Council contributes the remaining 12%.