Statutory 'duty of regard'
In 2000, Part IV of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act (amongst other provisions) reaffirmed the objectives of designation of AONBs, gave a 'duty of regard' towards the purpose of designation to a wide range of bodies ('relevant authorities').
Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 places a duty on relevant authorities and public bodies, in exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or which affect, land in the AONB to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB.
The nature of the duty is quite vague, but has been expanded on in guidance from Natural England in the pdf here.
It covers all arms of both central and local government, and includes:
- Environment Agency
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- English Heritage
- New Anglia Local Economic Partnership
- Forestry Commission
- Natural England
- Marine Management Organisation
- Parish councils and joint committees of local authorities;
- Regulatory bodies of statutory undertakers such as Oftel (Office of Telecommunications), Ofwat (Office of Water Services), Ofgem (Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets), etc.
AONB Management Plans
Section 89 of the CRoW Act gives relevant local authorities (i.e. those whose area wholly or partly includes an AONB) a duty to "prepare and publish a plan which formulates their policy for the management of the area of outstanding natural beauty and for the carrying out of their functions in relation to it" and to review the plan at "intervals of not more than five years".
A later paragraph stipulates that where the AONB is not entirely within one local authority area the plan should be prepared by "the local authorities for all the principal areas wholly or partly comprised in the area of outstanding natural beauty, acting jointly"