Consultation is now open on Natural England's proposals for various extensions to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Following a long process of evaluation of the evidence submitted during the public engagement exercise in 2022, the proposals were published on 7 March 2023 and will be consulted upon until the closing date of 13 June. Full details of the proposals and how to respond are in the Consultation Document that can be accessed from here.

The good news for local residents is that most of the existing Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) that runs north of the Hog's Back from Tongham in the west to Guildford in the east is proposed for inclusion in the expanded AONB (known as 'The Hog's Back extension'). Not all of it, though: it stops short at both eastern and western extremities and there will be disappointment because of that. Nor have those of us who campaigned to have areas leading up to and north of the railway line from Guildford to Aldershot been successful.

But the really good news is that some areas beyond the existing AGLV have been added in, including all the land proposed for the solar facility to the west of Blackwell Farm, plus Homestead Farm, site of the controversial proposed 70+ caravan site. Wanborough Fields and the surrounding area is also included. The rationale for including and excluding particular areas is given in the Consultation Document, and the full extent of the proposed extension can be seen on the map here.

It's perhaps worth quoting from the part of the Report covering the proposed 'Hog's Back Extension':

"This proposed extension includes the broad sweep of landscape which forms the immediate context to the Hog’s Back and comprises open arable slopes, extensive areas of ancient woodland and the spring line village of Wanborough. The gentle undulations of landform and blocky nature of woodland give rise to a visual simplicity within which mature oaks in woods, hedgerows and fields (reflecting former parkland) and historic lanes and tracks add time depth and visual interest. The area retains a rural tranquil character despite close proximity to the A31 and development to the north. Compositions created by its landscape elements, combined with close proximity views of the Hog’s Back, give rise to scenic qualities and local distinctiveness."

AONB status does not mean that no development can take place, but it does confer special legal protection.To quote from the Consultation Document: "Once an area has been designated by Natural England, activities relating to the purpose of AONB designation are coordinated and led by local authorities, who also have a legal responsibility to produce a Management Plan for the area. In carrying out their duties they often form wider partnerships with other organisations. Any public body taking a decision or undertaking activity that affects land in an AONB has a duty to have regard to the purpose of the designation when carrying out its work."

The proposals can and possibly will be contested, for example by local authorities, and if this happens it may trigger a Public Enquiry. So there is still some way to go before any additional areas can be designated AONB. NAG attended a briefing held just ahead of the publication of the proposals to recap the process to date and to explain in greater detail what happens next; this is summarised in the slides below.

It will be of particular interest to see what impact, if any, these proposals have on the current planning application for the solar facility, 22/P/02178. It will be up to Guildford Borough Council, as the local planning authority, to decide whether to take into account the fact that this land is now proposed for AONB status.

A reminder that the deadline to respond to the consultation is 13 June.


Download this file (AONB presentation phase 3 slide pack for attendees.pdf)AONB Presentation Slide Pack[ ]1833 kB
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