South Devon AONB

The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Covering 337 square kilometres (130 square miles) of coastline, estuaries and countryside, South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) stretches from Berry Head in Brixham to Jennycliff in Plymouth. As well as being a place of fabulous views and fantastic countryside it is home to 34,000 people. The shaded area in the map below shows the South Devon AONB designated area.



South Devon AONB is one of a family of protected landscapes in the UK. With the guidance of a Partnership Committee, the AONB Team work to enhance South Devon’s outstanding beauty, for which the designation was applied.

As a Protected Landscape the South Hams  is  deemed, by law, to have ten special qualities which make it unique and worthy of extra protection. These are:  a wild and rugged coastline; a network of streams, rivers and estuaries; rolling farmland; open tops and hidden valleys; long unspoiled views; a long lived-in landscape;  rich in wildlife; naturally tranquil; with an ancient  network of routes and quality views beyond the AONB boundary.

Plan/P2 Decision-taking Development management decisions will give great weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the South Devon AONB; and support development that is appropriate and proportionate to its setting within or adjacent to the South Devon AONB.

Plan/P3 Planning protocol Local – Planning Authorities will consult the South Devon AONB Unit on planning policy and significant planning applications following the agreed planning protocol, and use the South Devon AONB Management Plan as a material consideration to inform plan-making and decision-taking.

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  AONB Planning Guidance

  The AONB Management Plan

  Estuaries Management Plans

Following public consultation an Estuaries Management Plan covering 2016 – 2024 for the five estuaries in the South Devon AONB has been finalised. A text only version is available to download from this page. The Plan brings together the previous individual management plans of the Yealm, Erme, AvonSalcombe-Kingsbridge and Dart estuaries within one plan. The Estuaries Management Plan also now ties in more strongly with the South Devon AONB Management Plan.

Treasure your local estuary!

The five estuaries are one of the defining features of the South Devon AONB, each of them unique and special in their own ways and each of them treasured by their local communities. Whilst many of the estuary management issues and concerns are generic to all five, it is important that the identity and ‘ownership’ of each estuary by their local communities is encouraged and supported. If you’d like to find out about how you can get involved with the care of your local estuary contact us.strong>The special qualities of the AONB

The following list of special qualities define the unique “natural beauty” for which the South Devon AONB is designated as a nationally important protected landscape:

* Fine, undeveloped, wild and rugged coastline.

* Ria estuaries (drowned river valleys), steep combes and a network of associated watercourses.

* Deeply rural rolling patchwork agricultural landscape.

* Deeply incised landscape that is intimate, hidden and secretive away from the plateau tops.

* Iconic wide, unspoilt and expansive panoramic views.

* A landscape with a rich time depth and a wealth of historic features and cultural associations.

* A breadth and depth of significant habitats, species and associated natural events.

* An ancient and intricate network of winding lanes, paths and recreational routes.

* Areas of high tranquillity, natural nightscapes, distinctive natural soundscapes and visible movement.

* A variety in the setting to the AONB formed by the marine environment, Plymouth City, market and coastal towns, rural South Hams and southern Dartmoor.

Natural Beauty covers everything, including landscape quality, scenic quality, relative wildness, relative tranquillity, natural heritage features and cultural heritage, that add together to make an area distinctive. It is a high level, over-arching term.

Special Qualities are a subset of Natural Beauty, distilling the key attributes that make the area special and worthy of designation as an AONB; they apply to large areas or all of the AONB.

Distinctive Characteristics are those components that define what it is that gives South Devon its sense of place. They generally apply to areas smaller than the AONB as a whole.

Key Features are specific and detailed locations, places, landmarks, occurrences, events etc. that are of particular significance to South Devon and help illustrate how or where the special qualities, distinctive characteristics and natural beauty can be seen.

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