Other Relevant Designations

There are no other heritage-only designations than those set out in this section, but there are other designations in which heritage value features as part of the designation justification or as a consideration in their conservation.

One of the statutory purposes of designating National Parks is to conserve the cultural heritage found in their landscape. Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) often also owe part of their special value to the way past generations have shaped their form and detail.

The planning and management of National Parks and AONBs tends to be considered as part of the management of the 'natural environment', but the cultural heritage within them is part of their charm and character. They may contain many nationally designated heritage assets, such as listed farmsteads and scheduled pre-historic earthworks. Parts may have been designated as a conservation area. Locally listed buildings and other non-designated heritage assets may make smaller but cumulatively important contributions to the character of these protected areas.

Conserving the heritage significance of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) requires consideration of the overall heritage importance of the area and the contribution of individual elements. Those contributions may be from buildings or individual monuments, but they may also be from less obvious aspects, such as the pattern of land use, arrangement of roads and spaces and the nature of materials used.

The NPPF says that the conservation of wildlife and cultural heritage are important considerations in all these areas, and should be given great weight in the National Parks and the Broads (ref. 1).  

National Parks

There are 10 National Parks in England (including the Broads). These are areas which have been designated for special protection because of their beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage.

Each National Park is administered by a separate National Park Authority, which is an independent body funded by central government for two specific purposes:

  • To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
  • To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public

Each National Park produces a five-year National Park Management Plan. They are the Local Planning Authority for the park.

National Park Authorities are also required to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of communities within the National Parks.

Government has issued guidance on the statutory purposes of National Parks, their management and other matters.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

An AONB is a landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the national interest to safeguard them. There are currently 46 in Britain. Natural England is responsible for formally designating AONBs and advising on policies for their protection.

The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape with the secondary aims of meeting the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and considering the interests of those who live and work there.

Owners and farmers can obtain advice and grants from schemes run by the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to encourage landscape conservation and enhancement.

As with National Parks, a lot of their character is owed to the historic environment within them.

Heritage Coasts

Heritage Coasts are stretches of England’s coastline identified by Natural England as worthy of conservation for their natural beauty.

There is no statutory designation process. Natural England defines the national purpose of defining Heritage Coasts as including the conservation of their natural beauty, their marine flora and fauna and their heritage features.

Again, a lot of England's coastline has been heavily influenced by man and that history will be part of its character.

Local planning authorities should retain the character of the undeveloped coast, protecting and enhancing its distinctive landscapes, particularly in areas defined as Heritage Coast (ref. 2).


(1) Paragraph 176, National Planning Policy Framework, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, June 2021

(2) Paragraph 178, National Planning Policy Framework, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, June 2021