Issue details

24/00067 - Kent Couty Council Adoption of the 4th Revision of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan 2024-2029

Proposed decision


Adoption of the revised High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan 2024-2029



The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 requires local authorities within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to act collaboratively to prepare and publish an up-to-date plan, which ‘formulates their policy for the management of the area and for the carrying out of their functions in relation to it’.



The High Weald AONB Management Plan 2024- 2029 has been prepared by the High Weald AONB Unit and the High Weald AONB Joint Advisory Committee, a partnership which includes all 15 local authorities that have land within the High Weald AONB together with community, environment and land-based sector representatives for, and on behalf of, the borough and district councils of Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Ashford, Tonbridge and Malling, as well as Kent County Council, and councils across Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex.


In November 2023 all designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales became National Landscapes. This change was brought about as a result of recommendations published in January 2022 following the Governments Landscapes reviews (National Parks and AONBs). The new name reflects the national importance of these protected landscapes and is endorsed by Natural England. The High Weald National Landscape remains an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty insofar as all policy, legislation and guidance applies to the designated landscape. For this reason, the management plan document is still titled and refers to the High Weald AONB Management Plan. Reference is made in the document to both the AONB and the High Weald National Landscape interchangeably. The statutory purpose of the designated landscape “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the designated landscape” remains unchanged.


The High Weald AONB Management Plan was originally adopted by the County Council in April 2004 and set out a 20-year vision for the AONB. Revisions to the Management Plan were subsequently adopted in 2009, 2014 and 2019. This is the fourth revision.



This is a statutory obligation. 


The decision supports Framing Kent’s Future 2022-2026 which makes specific reference to protecting and enhancing protected landscapes.


The decision supports Securing Kent’s Future as adoption of the plan does not place any additional financial obligations on Kent County Council.




Decision type: Key

Decision status: For Determination

Notice of proposed decision first published: 02/07/2024

Decision due: Not before 31st Jul 2024 by Cabinet Member for Environment
Reason: To allow 28 day notice period required under Executive Decision regulationss

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Environment

Lead director: Matthew Smyth

Department: Growth, Environment & Transport

Contact: Helen Shulver, Head of Environment Email: Email:


The High Weald AONB Unit has overseen the consultation process for the Plan. Consultation on the revision of the plan commenced in January 2022 and has included:


  • Engagement with officers and elected members from the AONB Local Authorities (through the Joint Advisory Committee) through questionnaires, collaborative editing and a series of actions workshops with discussion and debate about the key issues and opportunities they wish to see addressed in this Plan and how to best present policies.
  • Expert engagement through meetings and partnerships from local stakeholders to government departments, running and attending courses and webinars, and convening events which bring together experts including site visits and steering groups. 
  • Public engagement via online surveys to support to formation of the plan and a full formal public consultation that was launched on the 25th September 2023 and ran through to the 5th November 2023.



The proposed decision will be considered by the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee on 9th July 2024

Financial implications: Kent County Council makes an annual revenue contribution of £9,500 towards the core funding of the High Weald AONB (as do the other local authorities within the boundaries of the HWAONB). It is not anticipated that the revised Management Plan will place any additional financial obligations on the County Council.

Legal implications: A statutory requirement in the CRoW Act is placed on the council to act jointly with the other local authorities to prepare and review a management plan for the landscape.

Equalities implications: An Equality Impact Assessment of the Plan was carried out in February 2024 by the High Weald AONB Unit and concluded that the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2024 – 2029 complies with the Equality Duty 2010. A DPIA screening was carried out and concluded that a DPIA was not required