Lack of Consultation With AONB and its Consequence?
The Shropshire Hills AONB Management Plan should be considered when developing Shropshire’s Local plan. However there is strong evidence that this has not been the case. In Shropshire Council’s fundamental policy documents “Consultation on Issues and Strategic Options” (2017) and the “Hierarchy of Settlements Assessment”(2017) there are NO references anywhere to the AONB
The Shropshire Hills AONB Management Plan is a “material consideration”and the AONB’s policies should have been applied alongside government policy, (as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework), and throughout the policy approach to Shropshire Council’s Partial Plan Review.
The impact on the Shropshire Hills AONB of allowing development on Snatchfield Meadow and Gaerstone Farm will not just be visual. The requirement to conserve and enhance natural beauty means more than physical and visual aspects. Natural Beauty covers everything that adds together to make the area distinctive, eg landscape quality, scenic quality, relative wildness, relative tranquillity, natural heritage and cultural heritage. The impact of building will be direct (e.g. loss of habitat) and indirect (e.g. development generating increased flood risk to other properties, more traffic and harming air quality or tranquillity in the AONB).
There are major concerns within the Shropshire Hills AONB Management Plan 2019-2024
In the AONB Management Plan it states:
“The planning system needs to take more account of the AONB”.
“We must help people to see the AONB as an asset rather than a barrier to economic growth”.
“More worryingly, every single known case of proposed ‘major development’ in the AONB since 2012 (11 cases) has been recommended by planning officers for approval”
"Current guidance is not really adequate"
“The Shropshire Hills AONB is 23% of Shropshire by area but contains only 6% of the county’s population. Its economy is therefore different from much of the county, with more small, dispersed rural businesses. Although agriculture is the largest land use, tourism is actually larger economically”
"The special qualities of the AONB’s landscape underpins the area’s economy. Development which draws on these qualities without harming them is sustainable, while activities which undermine the area’s natural capital will have a long-term detrimental effect on the economy. The planning system is the main mechanism for protection of an AONB, and planning policy and decisions should give the designation due recognition".
"However, it is important for the planning system to protect the qualities which people value about the area, and some forms of development which may be appropriate elsewhere should be controlled in the AONB"
"There are too many examples of where the balance has not favoured the AONB landscape. A presumption ‘in favour of sustainable development’  is not simply a presumption in favour of development".
All the above bullet points are a direct criticism of Shropshire Councils’ stewardship role in protecting AONB landscape. It is also quite clear from the above that the AONB Management Board has little confidence in Shropshire Council’s key policies relevant to protecting the AONB. Policies CS5 and CS17 in the Core Strategy and Policy MD12 in SAMDev are being ignored.
As mentioned above in reference to “major development”,.The AONB Management Plan states:
“Any proposal affecting the AONB deemed to be major development should be accompanied by a report identifying how the special qualities of the AONB are fully respected”
No reference to consulting with the AONB Board with regard to the Snatchfield Meadow and Gaerstone major developments has been evidenced.
AONB Management Plans must contribute to setting the strategic context for development by providing evidence and principles, which should be taken into account by Shropshire Council in any Local Plan or Local Plan Review.
As a result of failing to have proper regard to their to duty to safeguard the AONB Shropshire Council have seemingly chosen to disregard other Government guidance contained within the publication “Planning for the right homes in the right places 2017”. This states:
“The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that, to enable effective planning of new homes, local planning authorities should start the plan-making process with a clear understanding of the number of new homes that they need in their area. While this is an essential first step, it is not the only stage in the process. Local planning authorities then need to determine whether there are any environmental designations or other physical or policy constraints which prevent them from meeting this housing need. These include, but are not limited to, Ancient Woodland, the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. They also need to engage with other authorities – through the duty to co-operate – to determine how any need that cannot be accommodated will be redistributed over a wider area. This means that the level of housing set out in a plan may be lower or higher than the local housing need”.