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An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a nationally important, protected landscape.  


Each AONB has its own natural beauty and distinct characteristics that are recognised as so outstanding that they should be protected for the nation and future generations.


In England, Natural England is responsible for designating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The North Wessex Downs AONB was designated as a protected landscape in 1972 as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty under the National Parks and Access to Countryside Act 1949.


The North Wessex Downs AONB straddles the boundaries of Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and covers 173 parishes and it is the third largest AONB in the country covering an area of 668 square miles (1,730 square kilometres).


Conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the North Wessex Downs is the responsibility of nine local authorities within the four counties.  They come together with community, farming, conservation, tourism and heritage representatives to make up a governing Council of Partners, which is supported by a small professional team.eam.

North Wessex Downs Landscape Character


The North Wessex Downs is a visibly ancient landscape of great beauty, diversity and size.  It embraces the high, open arable sweeps of the chalk downs and dramatic scarp slopes with their prehistoric monuments and beech knolls, the moulded dip slopes, sheltered chalk river valleys, intimate and secluded wooded areas and low-lying heaths with a rich mosaic of woodland, pasture, heath and commons.  The North Wessex Downs AONB forms a surprisingly remote, expansive and tranquil landscape in the heart of southern England.


The designation of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty recognises the character, value and quality of the North Wessex Downs.  Although almost entirely a chalk landscape, the North Wessex Downs’ character differs markedly across the area, depending on local surface geology, soils, landform, land use, vegetation and settlement patterns. The greatest contrast, for example, is between the open arable chalk downs and the acid heathlands of the lower river valleys


The eight landscape character types are:


  • Open Downland

  • Downland with Woodland

  • Wooded Plateau

  • High Chalk Plain

  • Downs Plain and Scarp

  • Vales

  • River Valleys

  • Lowland Mosaic

About A.O.N.B

AONBs are living landscapes inhabited by lively communities of people.  So, the care of an AONB is entrusted to local authorities, organisations, community groups and the people who live and work within it.  AONB teams bring these people together, working collectively to conserve and enhance these special landscapes.  Relevant local authorities have a statutory responsibility to ensure that development and planning proposals take into account the protected status of the area.

Some features that were identified as most valued by local people were the:

  • rural ambience - tree-lined approaches, natural verges

  • outstanding landscape - the parish sits almost wholly in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • stunning views - overlooking fields and open spaces

  • woodland, leafy lanes and hedgerows - many fine individual trees

  • quiet lanes - used by walkers, cyclists, horse-riders

  • spread-out settlements - well-spaced dwellings that contribute to the rural atmosphere

  • diversity of building styles - many using local red brick

  • interesting architectural features - hung tiles, patterned brickwork, varied rooflines and details.



The design statement elaborates on these, describes the key features of the main settlements of the parish and provides specific guidance for developers.


North Wessex A.O.N.B - Planning - Colour Guidance & Survey


Early in 2021 North Wessex Downs A.O.N.B. published a “Colour guide” – two comprehensive documents which together analyse and identify the colours of the North Wessex Downs landscape and provide guidance on colour selection and material use for any developments.


The aim of the Colour Guide is to minimise potential negative impacts of development on the character of the AONB by providing information and support to those involved in any aspect of the planning and development process.

The Survey is a reference document illustrating the collection of colours from each landscape character type (including existing buildings) using the Natural Colour System


The Guidance includes developed palettes of colour appropriate to a range of building materials and finishes, which will help integrate new development into a specific landscape type.  It also includes a series of colourways – examples of how colours, selected from the developed palette, can be combined to harmonious and interesting effect.


The purpose of these documents is to provide direction and guidance on the selection and use of colour for building development within the AONB. ‘Development’ includes any building work, ranging from home extensions to mass house building, agricultural premises to office buildings. It also includes infrastructure developments associated with transport, power generation and distribution, communications and other utilities.


The Colour Guide is for use by anyone considering or proposing development within the AONB, including landowners, property owners, developers, agents, advisers, architects and landscape architects. It is also intended to support local authority planning staff and neighbourhood planning groups.

Link to these documents.

How A.O.N.B are funded

The vast majority of funding is from Defra (Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs), along with contributions from local district, county and borough councils where the AONB lies within their jurisdiction.  The Defra contribution provides 75% of our core budget.  For some projects, funding and support is sought in the form of grants or from other organisations.

North Wessex Downs Interactive Map


Click on this image to take you the webpage:

AONB North Wessex Downs Interactive Map.png
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