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Frequently Asked Questions - THE CHESHIRE SANDSTONE RIDGE


What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)?
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: an outstanding landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is safeguarded in the national interest.

How is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty protected?
An AONB is designated and thus protected under the 1949 National Parks and Access to Countryside Act. Its protection is further enhanced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000 (CRoW2000).

What is the purpose of the AONB designation?
In pursuing the primary purpose of designation, account is also taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities. Regard is paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.

Recreation is not an objective of designation, but the demand for recreation is met so far as this is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses.

What is the difference between AONBs and National Parks?
National Parks and AONBs share the same level of protection in UK law, but the purpose of the two designations differs.

Both designations share the statutory purpose to conserve and enhance natural beauty. However, National Parks are also legally obliged to provide for public recreational opportunities.

What is meant by natural beauty?
The natural beauty of an AONB is to do with the relationship between people and place. It encompasses everything 'natural and human' that makes an area distinctive. This includes an area's geology and landform, its climate and soils, wildlife and ecology. It also includes the rich history of human settlement and land use over the centuries, its archaeology and buildings, its cultural associations and the people who live in it.

Natural England guidance is that 6 factors contribute to a landscape's natural beauty: scenic quality, landscape quality, relative wildness, relative tranquillity, natural heritage and cultural heritage.

How many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are there?
There are 46 AONBs in Britain: 33 wholly in England, four wholly in Wales, one that straddles the Anglo-Welsh border and eight in Northern Ireland. You can find out more by visiting the website of the National Association for AONBs. Scotland doesn't have AONBs: National Scenic Areas are the closest equivalent.

What is so special about the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge?
The Sandstone Ridge is cherished by locals and visitors, and there is overwhelming agreement that it is an important area for natural beauty, landscape, heritage and wildlife. The panoramic and long-distance views that can be gained from its summits are particularly valued along with its peace and quiet, walking opportunities and accessibility.

Why is the Sandstone Ridge's proposal being considered for AONB designation?
The Sandstone Ridge Trust put forward the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge for consideration as AONB as it believes the area has outstanding natural beauty. In addition, AONB designation would:

  • Provide a single voice and vision for the area by bringing together social, economic and environmental agendas.
  • Provide the tool most able to manage future landscape change.
  • Change attitudes and behaviours towards the Ridge by giving the landscape greater recognition and status.
  • Increase the chances of attracting inward investment for the area's upkeep.
  • Provide the means and resources for a dedicated core team to drive forward our vision and ambitions for this magical landscape.

Who designates AONBs?
Natural England is the Government's Statutory Advisor on landscapes in England, with duties and powers to conserve and enhance landscapes that include the designation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The designation process is likely to take several years and will be a collaborative process including local stakeholders.

Who owns the Sandstone Ridge?
The Sandstone Ridge is in multiple private and public ownerships, including: The National Trust, Forestry England, The Woodland Trust, the Bolesworth and Peckforton Estates, English Heritage and Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

Who would look after the AONB if the Sandstone Ridge were successful in its designation?
Formal legal responsibility for the Sandstone Ridge would lie with the two local authorities that cover the area (Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council).

If established, they will work together as the Sandstone Ridge AONB Partnership, with advisors like Natural England, Historic England and Forestry England, and representatives of local community and user groups, to ensure that the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge is conserved for future generations to enjoy.

An AONB Joint Committee would be the governing and decision-making body, and would be supported by an Officer Working Group, Task and Finish Groups and an AONB Team. How the partnership will look after the AONB would be set out and co-ordinated through an AONB Management Plan.

What is an AONB Management Plan?
The local authorities that make up each AONB have a statutory duty to prepare AONB Management Plans, publish them and review them at regular intervals. AONB Management Plans highlight the special qualities of the AONB, present a vision and policies for the future of the area, and identify what needs to be done, by whom and by when.

AONB Management Plans are legal documents that must be taken into consideration by public bodies when undertaking their own policies and practices. However, they rely on goodwill and co-operation by many individuals and organisations if they are to be effective.

How would the AONB be funded?
The AONB would be funded 75% from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and 25% from the constituent local authorities (Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council). Funding would be used to enable the AONB partners to carry out activities that achieve its core statutory purpose to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Sandstone Ridge.

The annual cost to Cheshire residents to support the AONB should be a very small amount per person per annum.

What times are the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge open?
The Sandstone Ridge is open to the public at all times. There are no gates or barriers to control general access. You should check with individual attractions and visitor centres for their opening times when planning your visit.

What is there to do on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge?
The Sandstone Ridge is an ideal area to explore and enjoy the outdoors — on foot, bike or on horseback. Check our website which includes details of visitor centres/hubs etc on the Sandstone Ridge Website CLICK HERE.