The extension could encompass areas of Downs, Wealden Greensand and Low Weald within and around the locally designated Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).
The decision follows an initial assessment by local AONB partners that concluded there was evidence to support the position that the areas have sufficient natural beauty to qualify for inclusion in an AONB.
The Surrey Hills AONB Partnership’s1 proposal, seeks to extend the AONB boundary by almost 82.5 km2 – an additional 11% of the AGLV – to include diverse countryside ranging from rolling chalk downs and flower rich grasslands, to acid heaths and broadleaved woodland together with an extensively used network of public footpaths.
Natural England has a discretionary power to designate AONBs or to vary the boundary of an existing AONB by a Variation Order. If Natural England decides to vary the Surrey Hills AONB boundary, a Variation Order will be submitted to the Secretary of State for a final decision, following a period of consultation, and detailed boundary setting.
Maddy Jago, Natural England’s Director of Landscape and Biodiversity said:
“Yesterday’s Board decision enables work to begin on formally assessing whether part of the Downs, Wealden Greensand and Low Weald can be given AONB status as part of an extension to the Surrey Hills AONB. We are grateful to the Partnership for the work they have carried out to get the proposal to this stage which takes us a step further to assessing whether variation to the existing AONB is appropriate.”