Chilterns AONB Boundary Review – Project Update

Chilterns AONB Boundary Review – Project Update

The Chilterns AONB boundary review is well underway having progressed the technical assessment of natural beauty and engaged positively with key stakeholders.

In July 2021, Natural England announced a new programme for landscape designation, including considering a proposal to extend the Chilterns AONB. Natural England appointed specialist consultants to undertake the technical assessments for the Chilterns AONB boundary review at the end of 2022. We are pleased to say that significant progress has been made on the project to date, including a recent stakeholder engagement event with local specialists. This informal engagement helped strengthen proposals in advance of the statutory and public consultation, currently scheduled for spring/summer 2024.

“Protected Landscapes, including the Chilterns AONB, are the country’s most iconic and beautiful places, and are crucial for nature’s recovery,” says Stephen Rudd, senior responsible officer for the Chilterns AONB boundary review. “Natural England is committed to progressing the Chilterns AONB Boundary review, having met key milestones such as the recent stakeholder engagement event, and look forward to the next steps in this project”.

What has happened so far:

The boundary review process involves answering three broad technical questions:

  1. Does the landscape have sufficient natural beauty to be considered outstanding?
  2. Is it desirable to designate this landscape as AONB to conserve and enhance its natural beauty?
  3. Where should the boundary be drawn?

So far, work has focused on addressing Question 1.  This has involved gathering and appraising evidence, desk-based studies, and field assessments across numerous sites. During the process, Natural England worked closely with both the Management Group and Technical Advisory Group to ensure access to the best available evidence. These groups consist of representatives from the Chilterns Conservation Board, relevant local authorities, national bodies, and key conservation and wildlife trusts.

Back in November, Natural England delivered a successful stakeholder engagement event and gathered technical feedback from local specialists on the work undertaken to date. A range of stakeholders attended, including statutory consultees (made up of relevant local authorities), national bodies, utility companies, wildlife and conservation trusts, and key recreational organisations.

Next steps:

Natural England and their consultants, LUC, are now analysing the stakeholder feedback to conclude work that addresses Question 1 and inform the desirability assessment in Question 2. Natural England is expecting to conclude this work in spring 2024.

Steps to identify the proposed boundary changes (Question 3) will start in February 2024.

The statutory consultation, which will take place in spring/summer 2024, will be open to everyone and give all stakeholders an opportunity to have their say on the proposed boundary changes.

If you have any questions, please take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions document or get in touch with Natural England

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