James Evans, AONB Planning Officer explores the relationship of the AONB with the policies in the forthcoming Cornwall Local Plan:
Further to my last post in the Summer on the progress of the Cornwall Local Plan I write to confirm that the final version of this document is now going through the usual Cornwall Council Committee approvals so that it can be adopted as the development plan for Cornwall.
As I previously outlined the Unit are pleased with the final version of the document and the commensurate weight that it applies to the AONB status. Planning law requires that development must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise, it is welcomed that the development plan for Cornwall applies ‘great weight’ to the AONB and seeks to ‘protect and where possible enhance Cornwall’s natural environment and assets according to their international, national and local significance’.
It is important to remember this weighting when applications are assessed in the overall planning balance. As we know, not all planning policies pull in the same direction, and as it is the requirement to assess the development plan policies as whole, we then need to consider how much weight is applied to each policy, and which policy has greater weight than others in the overall decision making process.
The AONB is a national designation, the ‘great weight’ applied to conserving its natural beauty is therefore of national importance, hence why the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) through paragraph 115 applies ‘the highest status of protection ….’. This weighting can often get forgotten about.
The Unit are now working with the planning policy team in Cornwall Council to develop a Supplementary Planning Document that provides guidance on how we use the Local Plan policies to assess proposals impacting upon the AONB, how we apply ‘great weight’ and how we assess if development will ‘conserve or enhance’ the natural beauty of the Cornwall AONB. It is anticipated that the SPD will be out for consultation early next year.