2018 is a significant milestone for the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as it marks the 60th anniversary of the designation. The Surrey Hills was one of the first landscapes in the country to be designated in 1958 and is now one of 38 AONBs in England and Wales. The Surrey Hills stretch across rural Surrey, from the chalk North Downs that run from Farnham in the west, above Guildford, Dorking and Reigate, to Oxted in the east, covering a quarter of the county!
The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Designation
On 8th May 1958, the Minister for Housing and Local Government confirmed the Designation Order for the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The Act legislated for the designation of AONBs and National Parks. They were both considered to be of equal landscape status with the purpose to conserve and enhance natural beauty.
What the designation meant
The AONB designation has been a planning tool to help protect the area from development pressures, although the Surrey Hills is unique in being wholly contained within the Green Belt. It was not until 1998 that a Joint Advisory Committee was established to oversee the administration of the Surrey Hills which led to the recruitment of the first AONB officer. In 2000, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act placed a statutory duty on bodies to have regard to the management of the AONB, and local authorities the duty to regularly plan, review and adopt a Management Plan for the area.
Securing the future
The Surrey Hills Board continues to develop policies and programmes that protect and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the Surrey Hills whilst promoting the social and economic well-being of the area. Visit www.surreyhills.org/board/ to discover more.