An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an area of countryside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. Areas are designated in recognition of their importance, by the relevant public body, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales. In place of AONB, Scotland uses the similar national scenic area designation and they also differ from national parks in their more limited opportunities for extensive outdoor recreation. To achieve these aims, AONBs rely on planning controls and practical countryside management, as they have the same landscape quality, AONBs may be compared to the national parks of England and Wales. National parks are known to many inhabitants of the UK, by contrast. The idea for what would become the AONB designation was first put forward by John Dower in his 1945 Report to the Government on National Parks in England. Dower suggested there was need for protection of certain naturally beautiful landscapes which were unsuitable as national parks due to their small size and lack of wildness. Dowers recommendation for the designation of these other amenity areas was eventually embodied in the National Parks, there are 46 AONBs in Britain. The first AONB was designated in 1956 in the Gower Peninsula, AONBs vary greatly in terms of size, type and use of land, and whether they are partly or wholly open to the public. The smallest AONB is the Isles of Scilly,16 km2, the AONBs of England and Wales together cover around 18% of the countryside in the two countries. The AONBs of Northern Ireland together cover about 70% of Northern Irelands coastline, AONBs in England and Wales were originally created under the same legislation as the national parks, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Unlike AONBs, national parks have special powers to prevent unsympathetic development. Two of the AONBs, which extend into a number of local authority areas, have their own statutory bodies. All English and Welsh AONBs have a dedicated AONB officer and other staff, as required by the CRoW Act, each AONB has a management plan that sets out the characteristics and special qualities of the landscape and how they will be conserved and enhanced. The AONBs are collectively represented by the National Association for AONBs, AONBs in Northern Ireland were designated originally under the Amenity Lands Act 1965, subsequently under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order 1985. There are growing concerns among environmental and countryside groups that AONB status is increasingly under threat from development, the Campaign to Protect Rural England said in July 2006 that many AONBs were under greater threat than ever before. The subsequent development, known as Falmer Stadium, was opened in July 2011. The Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset was constructed between 2008 and 2011, after environmental groups lost a High Court challenge to prevent its construction, writing in 2006, Professor Adrian Phillips listed threats facing AONBs
View from the Gower peninsula, the first AONB to be designated.
Falmer stadium under construction in 2010 in the former Sussex Downs AONB
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales