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What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

The statutory purpose of designating an area of land as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area. This comprises the area’s distinctive landscape character, biodiversity and geodiversity, historic and cultural environment.

The Norfolk Coast National landscape is one of a family of 46 in England and Wales that, together with our national parks, make up our finest scenic areas.

Designation map

Where is the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was designated in 1968 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949. It covers 453 square kilometres including the greater part of the unspoiled coastal areas between the Wash and Great Yarmouth.

It is physically split into three separate zones that encompass large sections of
the coast:

  • The western zone lies just north of King’s Lynn, taking in parts of the
    Sandringham Estate (including Sandringham House) and an area of the
    south-eastern corner of the Wash
  • The central zone runs from Old Hunstanton to Weybourne (a stretch protected
    under a separate designation: the ‘North Norfolk Heritage Coast’) and then on
    to a point near Bacton in the east, excluding the resort areas of Sheringham,
    Cromer and Mundesley
  • The eastern zone runs from Sea Palling to Winterton-on-Sea, taking in
    Winterton Dunes.

Why is the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation important?

As well as conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area, there are two secondary non-statutory purposes of the AONB designation:

  1. To take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry, fishing and other local rural industries, and of the economic and social needs of local communities, paying particular regard to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the area’s natural beauty.
  2. To seek to meet the demand for recreation so far as this is consistent with the statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the area’s natural beauty – and which preferably supports this purpose by increasing understanding, valuation and care for the area – and is also consistent with the needs of rural industries.

The designation helps to protect not just the natural features – the trees, fields and open spaces – but also settlements and working environments that are distinctive characteristics of the countryside. It also allows for sustainable development in ways that further enhance the character of the area.

AONB Infographic England

Further information

More about Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

To find out more about the wider family of AONBs, visit the National Association for AONBs website.

Across Europe

The areas are also part of a wider network of protected areas throughout Europe. Find out more about these by visiting the Europarc Atlantic Isles website.

Summary of other conservation designations

As is the case with all nationally protected landscapes (national parks and National Landscapes), the fact that these are special areas means that they include or overlap with areas of land or features designated under different legislation for their special significance in a particular sphere – for example nature conservation or historic environment.

The following summary covers these other designations that apply within the National Landscape, which create a complicated designation picture, testifying to the national and international importance of the area.

Download Conservation Designations Summary >  

The significance of the Norfolk Coast Landscape

Taken from the 1995 Landscape Character Assessment of the AONB, this can be seen as a more detailed assessment of the area’s special landscape qualities summarised in section 2 of the Management Plan (“A Special Place”).

Download The Significance of the Norfolk Coast Landscape >

Designation history summary for the Norfolk Coast AONB

Summarised from one of a series of designation histories for AONBs, this details the process leading to designation of the area as an AONB in 1968. A full hard copy version of the designation history is available at the Norfolk Coast Partnership office.

Download Designation History Summary >

Shaping of the Norfolk Coast landscape

Based on information from the 1995 Landscape Character Assessment for the AONB, this explains the influences that have given rise to the area as we know and love it today.

Download Shaping of the Landscape >

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