Landscape is the basis of designation for areas of outstanding natural beauty - but it's much more than just a view. Each landscape you look at tells a story of how this particular place came to look as it does today, acted upon by influences from the very recent past to millions of years ago.
The landscapes of the Norfolk Coast are strongly influenced by the sea in most cases, of course, but are composed of and enriched by the combination of distinctive geological and geophysical features, characteristic and sometimes rare wildlife and habitats, and cultural characteristics such as archaeology, field patterns, building materials and settlement patterns.
Integrated landscape guidance for the area
Local authority landscape assessments have been integrated with each other and with assessments of ecological and historic character to produce integrated landscape character assessmemnt and guidance for the Norfolk Coast. This has resulted in the definition of 16 separate landscape character types in the AONB, further divided into smaller landscape character areas in most cases.
This is intended to provide interest in its own right on the variety of landscape character throughout the area and the influences that have produced it, and to provide information and guidance for local plans, projects and decision-makers.
National Character Areas
Natural England has completed a review of what were previously known as 'Joint Character Areas' (JCAs) for England to produce 159 distinct natural areas known as National Character Areas (NCAs) in a revised format.
Each NCA is defined by a unique combination of landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity, history, and cultural and economic activity. The NCA profile documents explain how you can access and use environmental evidence and information about places.
The three main NCAs relating to the Norfolk Coast AONB are:
- NCA76 North West Norfolk
- NCA77 North Norfolk Coast
- NCA78 Central North Norfolk
Other NCAs covering small parts of the AONB are NCA46 The Fens; NCA79 North East Norfolk and Flegg; and NCA80 The Broads.
European Landscape Convention
The European Landscape Convention (ELC) was ratified by the UK Government in 2006 and was reaffirmed as being part of Defra's delivery framework in the Natural Environment White Paper, 2011. The UK is recognised as already putting much of the principles of the ELC into practice, for example through the Joint Character Area (now National Character Area) map of England and also through the well established practice of using landscape character assessment to inform local policy making.
It defines landscape as:
"Landscape means an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors."
The convention highlights the need to recognise landscape in law, to develop landscape policies dedicated to the protection, management and creation of landscapes, and to establish procedures for raising awareness and understanding of landscapes and the participation of the general public and other stakeholders in the creation and implementation of landscape policies. It also encourages the integration of landscape into all relevant areas of policy, including cultural, economic and social policies.