What exactly is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a landscape which is considered so precious that it is protected for the nation. The criteria for designating an AONB include valuable wildlife, habitats, geology and heritage, as well as scenic views. The primary purpose of the AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area, now and for future generations. The AONB Partnership is open to everyone who lives and works in the area. It also welcomes visitors to the area and other interested parties, be they individuals, government or non-governmental organisations or an interest group.

The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) was formed in 1998 as an independent organisation to act on behalf of the 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales. You can learn more about the group here www.landscapesforlife.org.uk 


Our nationally designated AONB covers 380 sq miles of countryside overlaps the boundaries of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset. It is a diverse landscape offering areas of rolling chalk grassland, ancient woodlands, chalk escarpments, downland hillsides and chalk river valleys each with a distinct and recognisable character. The landscapes of the AONB today, as they were in the past. 

The AONB was designated in 1981 and the AONB Partnership’s primary aim is to ensure that these exceptional landscapes are conserved and enhanced for future generations. National designation of this deeply rural AONB is founded on its being a vibrant, living, working landscape. Agriculture, forestry, related rural industries and all its local communities are central to its conservation and enhancement into the future.

General Information

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: a precious landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation's interest to safeguard them. The primary purpose of AONB designation is to 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area'. In planning terms, AONB designation is equivalent in status to that of National Parks.