The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW3) raised the profile of AONBs and increased the powers and duties of the local authorities and conservation boards who are responsible for their management. AONBs have a vital and increasingly important role to play in the conservation of Briatin’s countryside's natural and cultural heritage.

· Part IV of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) consolidates earlier legislation regarding the designation and purposes of AONBs. It also adds some important new provisions which:
· allow the Secretary of State to establish conservation boards for
· individual AONBs, to which local authority functions (with the
· exception of development planning) can be transferred;
· require 'relevant authorities' (public bodies etc.) to 'have regard' to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the AONB;
· require AONB local authorities or conservation boards to prepare and publish an AONB Management Plan and to review it at intervals in line with the CRoW act clauses.

Under CRoW, there is a duty on local authorities to prepare AONB Management Plans, to publish them and to review them at intervals. In AONBs which existed prior to CRoW, a new plan must be published no later than 1st April 2004; in the case of a new AONB a Management Plan must be published within three years of the date of designation. Where a conservation board has been established, responsibility for Plan production, publication and review rests with the board. A conservation board must publish its Management Plan within two years of its formation. Where an AONB falls within the areas of more than one local authority, these authorities should prepare and publish a joint Plan. In practice, local authorities will normally look to AONB partnerships to carry out this function for them.

As of mid 2000, 30 of the 41 AONBs in England and Wales had an adopted Management Plan or one in an advanced stage of production. A further five AONBs had some other equivalent documentation, such as a strategic plan or an early draft management plan. Such plans may be reviewed and adopted by the AONB partnership, within the same timescales as above. A 'pre-CRoW' Management Plan should not however be adopted purely as a formality. Review should involve the participation of all interested parties, who may well perceive a 'post-CRoW' Management Plan as a more significant document than its predecessor.

Once adopted and published, Management Plans must be reviewed at intervals not exceeding five years.

3 Structure

An AONB Management Plan:

· highlights the special qualities and the enduring significance of the AONB, and the importance of its different features;
· presents an integrated vision for the future of the AONB as a whole, in the light of national, regional and local priorities;
· sets out agreed policies incorporating specific objectives which will help secure that vision;
· identifies actions as to what needs to be done, by whom, and when, in order to achieve these outcomes;
· states how the condition of the AONB and the effectiveness of its management will be monitored.

Management planning is the process through which such Plans are produced, implemented and reviewed. The process is as important as the Plan itself. It should:

· bring together people involved with the AONB, provide a bridge between 'managers' and users, and between different groups of stakeholders;
· achieve consensus about the AONB's significance, reconcile multiple uses and conflicting interests, and generate a commitment to the plan and its policies;
· identify roles and responsibilities of partners and others, specify outcomes, and attract resources.

Every AONB Management Plan should have at least two elements:

1. a strategy for the AONB - an ambitious, visionary statement of policy, which identifies specific objectives and the methods through which these will be achieved;
2. a set if actions which are a more focused statement of who will do what in order to achieve the objectives and move towards the vision.

It may be appropriate for these to be in two documents, an AONB Strategy Plan, reviewed on a five year (or shorter) cycle, and an AONB Action Plan, which looks forward perhaps three years and is reviewed annually on a rolling basis.

The AONB Management Plan should be prepared with a clear idea of the its target audiences and who will be referring to it. The Plan will be read by a wider audience than those that were involved in its production.
Audiences for an AONB Management Plan are likely to include:

· Local authority members and officers.
· Government departments and statutory agencies - for example, the Countryside Agency, English Nature, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, English Heritage, the Environment Agency and the Regional Development Agencies.
· Statutory undertakers - for example, telecommunications and water companies.
· The AONB partnership - the JAC or conservation board.
· AONB unit staff.
· Other organisations operating within the AONB including voluntary bodies and local branches of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) such as CPRE.
· Parish councils and community leaders.
· Land owners and land managers within the AONB.
· Individuals: residents, people who work in the AONB, regular visitors.
· Funding bodies e.g. the Countryside Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund.
· Others, including prospective partners who are not yet involved with AONB management.

4 Content

An AONB Management Plan is a document which:

· Highlights the special qualities and the enduring significance of the AONB, the importance of its landscape features and identifies those that are vulnerable to change.
· Presents an integrated vision for the future of the AONB as a whole, in the light of national, regional and local priorities.
· Sets out agreed policies incorporating specific objectives which will help secure that vision.
· Identifies what needs to be done, by whom, and when, in order to achieve these objectives.
· Identifies the means by which objectives and actions will be reviewed. Management planning is the process through which such plans are produced and implemented.
· In terms of legal status:
· AONB Management Plans are statutory in that local authorities (or conservation boards where established) are required by law to produce them.
· An AONB Management Plan should set out the local authorities' or conservation board's policies for the AONB and also indicate how these will be achieved.
· The importance and role of AONB Management Plans is underlined by the duty on public bodies, including local authorities, to have regard to the statutory purposes of AONBs in carrying out their functions.
· AONB Management Plans do not override local development plans but relevant sections of the plan can be adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) where appropriate.
· AONB Management Plans should always seek to link across to other statutory plans, strategies and land management schemes which impinge on their geographical area (e.g. local transport plans, Community Strategies, Biodiversity Action Plans) in order to both influence and support them.

Although production and review of an AONB Management Plan is a statutory requirement on the local authorities or conservation board and should formulate the local authorities' or conservation board's policies for managing the AONB, it need not it be a dry technical document. The Plan should be for the AONB as a whole, not just the local authorities own area. It should be seen as much more than a guide for the activities of an AONB staff unit, it should reflect the aims and aspirations of the multiplicity of AONB stakeholders and it should be accessible to a broad audience. The requirement to publish the Management Plan, and to make it publicly available, provides an additional reason to focus on issues of presentation and accessibility as well as content.

Land within AONBs is often in multiple ownership and control. AONB Management Plans rely on co-operation and goodwill by many different individuals and organisations if they are to be effective. The AONB Management Plan can be a powerful inspirational tool, for promoting a shared vision of what the AONB is about now, and what it could be in the future, as well as a vehicle for delivering action 'on the ground'. Its production and review is an opportunity to generate or renew a broad consensus on the AONB's purposes and management needs and to secure the active commitment of key stakeholders to contribute to them. It can also be an educational tool, helping to change attitudes and behaviours.

5 Plans

A distinction may be made in AONB management planning between strategy planning and action planning. Every AONB Management Plan should have at least two elements:

1. A strategy for the AONB - an ambitious, visionary statement of policy, which identifies the key facts and issues affecting the character of the AONB, together with a set of specific objectives and the methods through which these will be achieved.
2. A more focused statement of precisely who will do what in order to achieve the objectives and move towards the vision.

Both elements may be contained within a single document, the AONB Management Plan, in which case the tasks or action points may be distributed through the document, associated with particular policies.
Alternatively there may be two different documents, a Strategy Plan and an Action Plan. The latter will often be updated annually,looking forward maybe three years. The Statutory Management Plan will be supported by a substantial body of technical documents (e.g. Landscape Character Assessment, Biodiversity Plan) that should be generally accessible to all with an interest.

Particular sections within the Plan may:

· Bring together people involved with the AONB, provide a bridge between 'managers' and 'users'
· Achieve consensus about the significance of the AONB and a shared commitment to conserve it
· Manage multiple uses and conflicting interests within it
· Relate the AONB to the wider landscape, ecological, economic and social context
· Generate a commitment to agreed management policies
· Identify roles and responsibilities of partners and others
· Specify actions and outcomes which can be monitored
· Ensure objectives can be achieved within the resources available
· Promote and publicise the AONB and its purposes
· Attract resources; and provide the basis for securing grant aid
· Fulfil the legal obligations of the local authority or conservation board
· Ensure continuity and consistency of management over time, conserving the AONB for the use and enjoyment of future generations
· Create a sense of place for local residents and communities
· Provide information about the AONB
· Identify its value and the significance of its features
· Articulate a vision for its future
· Explain what management is intended to achieve
· Outline the means which will be used to do this
· Identify the partners who have 'signed up' to the management plan and its policies
· Say who will do what, when, and what resources are required
· Provide a way of checking the condition of the AONB and the effectiveness of its management

6 Connections

One of the key 'planning' roles of the AONB Management Plan is to integrate all relevant policies into a single framework. Many other plans and other policy documents relating to the AONB area are likely to exist independently of the planOthers will be produced or reviewed during the lifetime of the AONB Plan. It is important to consider how each of these documents might relate to the AONB Plan. They should certainly be consulted during its production

There should be a two-way relationship between the AONB Management Plan and plans produced by other bodies. The AONB Plan should not override other plans. Neither should the AONB Plan necessarily be limited by policies within other plans, though some, for example local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs), may have policies or targets which may have to be incorporated.

The AONB Management Plan should aim to present the highest shared aspirations for the area, seeking to present an integrated vision for the AONB. In developing its vision the AONB partnership should use others' policies as a starting point, aiming when appropriate to go further than other agencies might have gone. The AONB Plan should not simply reflect the lowest common denominator of existing policies.

Where other plans or policies are out of step with this vision, and with the AONB policies which flow from it, the AONB Management Plan should indicate how those other plans and policies could be improved. The AONB Management Plan should seek to be a strategic plan that influences the other plans listed above.
All policies should have regard to the context of the AONB, including surrounding areas. Some policies in the AONB Management Plan (e.g. proposals for transport schemes) may need to extend beyond the AONB boundary.

This table can be used as a checklist for drawing up a list of plans which apply to any particular AONB, and the organisation which produces them
Usually produced by
Structure Plans, Local Plans and Unitary Development Plans.
Community Strategies, Statutory Rights of Way Improvement Plans.
Local Agenda 21 Plans. Best Value Plans.
Rural Development Priority Area Strategies/Programmes.
Conservation Area Statements, Local Transport Plans.
Housing Strategies, Economic Development Plans, Anti-poverty Strategies,
Crime Reduction Strategies, Cultural Strategies and other plans linked to
neighbourhood renewal.
Local authority
Integrated coastal zone management strategies, Shoreline Management Plans;
Coastal Habitat Management Plans (CHAMPs), Estuary Management Plans,
Nature Conservation strategies, Local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs).
Environment Agency/Local authority/
English Nature/wildlife trusts
England's Rural Development Programme and its Regional Chapters
(e.g. Countryside Stewardship Scheme, Environmentally Sensitive Areas
and the Rural Enterprise Scheme).
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Village Appraisals, Village Design Statements, Parish Plans.
Parish council, or other parish based organisation
Market Town Plans.
Market Town Partnerships
Tourism strategies, Countryside Access Strategies.
Local authority and/or Regional
Tourist Board
Single Programme Document for EU Structural Programmes;
Regional Planning Guidance; Regional Economic Strategies.
Govt Office for the Region/regional
planning body
Planning Policy Guidance.
DTLR Department for Transport, Local Government
and the regions
Landscape Assessment; Landscape Strategies; Countryside Character
Area Descriptions.
Local authority/AONB partnership/Countryside Agency
River Basin Management Plans, Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAPs);
Catchment Management Plans.
Environment Agency
Asset Management Plans.
Water companies
Archaeological surveys.
Local authority and/or English Heritage
Natural Area Strategies, Lifescape Pilots, National Biodiversity
Action Plans (BAPs) and Habitat Action Plans (HAPs)
English Nature
Health Improvement Plans.
Health authorities
Site management plans, estate management plans and whole farm plans.
Private landowners, National Trust,
wildlife trust, English Nature and others
Regional Economic Strategies
Regional Development Agencies

7 Sustainability

Sustainability has been defined as the management of change to meet equitably the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The
government's Sustainable Development Strategy6 defines four objectives for sustainable development at a local, national and global level:

· Social progress that recognises the needs of everyone.
· Effective protection of the environment.
· Prudent use of natural resources and
· Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.

Management planning provides the means of achieving this within an AONB. Sustainability is a theme that should run through the whole

Partly as a result of their designation, and the extra resources this brings to the area, AONBs can be used as a test bed of innovative policy for wider rural areas. It is important:

· To consider the AONB as a whole as well as the specific needs of its different areas and of the different interest groups that use it.
· To achieve a commitment to the AONB and its Management Plan by local communities, landowners, visitors and other stakeholders.
· To ensure that all management policies and subsequent actions are appropriate, practical, effective and realistic and that their implementation is carried out in a sustainable way that does not harm the AONB's special qualities.

'Quality of Life Capital' is a multi-agency approach7 which provides one way of analysing what is important about the countryside to people, and what must be kept or must be compensated for when development takes place. Quality of Life Capital includes:

· Environmental Capital - the character and natural features of the countryside including its landscape and wildlife diversity, attractiveness, sense of place, and opportunities for enjoyment which provide benefits we all value.
· Social capital - existing in rural communities, in the form of facilities, services and networks of advice, mutual support, and skills which can help bind people together.
· Economic capital - the benefits to people of employment and trading activity.

Development plans, community strategies and access to the countryside

The AONB Management Plan should indicate how it fits in with existing statutory plans. In some AONBs there may be more than a dozen such Plans.

Development plans; Current Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) states that 'the primary objective of designation is the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape. Local authorities should reflect this objective in their preparation of structure and local plans and in exercise of development control'8.
Legislation places a duty on the Countryside Agency to give advice on development matters within AONBs, and it also places a duty on local authorities to consult the Countryside Agency on development plans, access agreements and access orders in AONBs.

Development plans exclude policies that do not relate to land use planning, however this is no reason why AONB Management Plans should not address planning matters. In AONBs the Management Plan can be an instrument for securing better consistency across the area and it may be the principal way that the AONB partnership can seek to influence planning matters. The AONB Management Plan may do this by affirming the strengths of existing development plans and by pointing out inadequacies in them or inconsistencies between them. AONB Management Plans should set out future development policies that AONB partnerships might wish to see applied within the AONB. It may also set commons standards for dealing with AONB wide issues: e.g. telecommunication masts will also be important for AONB partnerships to be involved in the preparation and review of development plans themselves.

Once local authorities have approved the AONB Management Plan, those elements in it that relate to the development and use of land, and which supplement and support the policies set out in the development plan, may be material considerations to be taken into account in determining a planning application. Relevant sections of the Plan which relate to the policies of the local authorities concerned should readily lend themselves to being adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG - see Appendix 1: Legislation and legal obligations on page 71). In any case, local authority partners to the JAC should agree that AONB officers should be consulted on all planning matters (both strategic policies and individual cases) that have an impact on the AONB.

Community strategies; Under the Local Government Act, 2000, all local authorities have a duty to prepare community strategies. These aim to promote economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas, and local authorities have been given broad powers to help them do this. As with AONB management planning, the process by which community strategies are produced is as important as the final strategy itself.The government has stated that wide local 'ownership' of the planning process is vital and that this can be secured through a community planning partnership. It is clearly important that the AONB Management Plan and community strategies within the area are complementary so that they reflect and inform each other. Where possible, Plans should be also be prepared in a complementary way: for example by shared consultation.

Access; Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, local highway authorities are required to prepare and publish Rights of Way improvement plans. These should take into account the existing and future needs of the public, including disabled people, and the opportunities provided for exercise and other forms of open-air recreation. AONB partnerships can expect to be consulted on the content of these plans.

8 Special areas

A variety of other defined or designated sites may exist within the AONB. Some of these (such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Ancient Monuments) are statutory designations, providing legal protection. Some are European Union designations, for example Special Areas of Conservation, or are internationally recognised e.g. World Heritage Sites. Other areas (for example Environmentally Sensitive Areas) may be managed in a particular way with the aid of grants from government bodies. Most of these areas will have their own management plans or management agreements. Where they are particularly significant, either individually or in aggregate, this should be recognised in the AONB Management Plan.

Coastlines. 16 AONBs include coastlines defined as Heritage Coasts, which also need to be managed in accordance with a Management Plan. Care should be taken to ensure that the policies for the AONB and for the Heritage Coast within it are complementary and consistent. Linked AONBs and Heritage Coasts should ideally be managed as a single unit, in which case a joint AONB/Heritage Coast Plan should cover the combined area.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategies exist or are in production for many coastlines. These are produced by partnerships of all interested organisations and so have many parallels to AONB Management Plans. AONB partnerships may wish to consider their response to issues such as coastal re-alignment, and lobby for the adoption of environmentally sympathetic approaches to the management of flood risk.
Table 4 Some other special areas that may exist within the AONB

Statutory designations

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) National Nature Reserve (NNR) Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Commons

Non-statutory definitions and other areas
Conservation Areas
Heritage Coast
Country Parks
Land under Countryside Stewardship
Land Management Initiative areas
Rural Priority Areas National Trust land Community Forests
Local authority nature conservation
Historic battlefield sites Heritage Landscapes
Historic parks and gardens
European and international designations Special Protection Area (SPA)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Ramsar Sites
World Heritage Sites
Biosphere Reserves
Structural Fund Boundaries

9 Process

Planning should

· be a participative process that seeks to integrate and reflect the views and aspirations of a wide range of AONB stakeholders who may be involved or interested in the future management of the area;
· involve a variety of different methods each of which has its own advantages and limitations;
· be itself carefully planned to meet the specific circumstances of the AONB, and to take account of the time and resources available.

It is the vehicle by which the work of different players and partner organisations is coordinated and by which its outcomes are judged. Implementation of the AONB Management Plan and coordinating action by others is a core function of the AONB staff unit, as is monitoring and reporting on progress against management targets. Production and publication of annual reviews of activity and achievements is a requirement for Countryside Agency grant aid.

AONB Plans will normally contain:

· An introduction which sets the context for the AONB and its Plan in a positive way.
· A description of the AONB and an assessment of its significance and special qualities.
· A statement of the principal issues affecting the AONB.
· A report of the participative process used to produce the Plan.
· A vision for the AONB's future.
· The management policies for the AONB in the form of measurable
· objectives and the methods by which these will be achieved.
· Tasks that need to be undertaken to achieve the objectives.
· How the implementation of the plan and the condition of the AONB is to be monitored and how the plan itself is to be reviewed.

Plans should address all issues relevant to the future of the AONB.
These might include:

· Natural beauty, landscape character, biodiversity (habitats and species), archaeology and historic features, agriculture and forestry, mineral extraction, development issues, waste disposal, water cycle and coastal management.
· Public understanding and enjoyment, tourism and informal recreation access to the countryside including Rights of Way and Access to Open Country, interpretation, education and promotion.
· Economic and social well-being of local communities, the local economy and employment, housing and the built environment, transport and traffic.

There should be a two-way relationship between the AONB Management Plan and other plans and policies, including statutory development plans and community strategies.

The process of producing, or reviewing, an AONB Management Plan is as important as the plan itself. Planning should be a participative process that seeks to integrate and reflect the views and aspirations of a wide range of AONB stakeholders who may be involved or interested in the future management of the area. A number of different methods may be employed each with their own advantages and limitations. It is vital that the whole process itself be planned to meet the specific circumstances of the AONB, and that it takes account of the time and resources available.

There is no standard formula for an AONB management planning process. The procedures adopted should be determined by:

· The outcomes required of the process, and the priority given to each of these.
· An assessment of the organisations and individuals that need to be involved.
· The purpose of the Management Plan and how it will be used.
· The timetable agreed for Plan production.
· The resources available, both in terms of staff time and in terms of money.
· Whether an existing Plan is to be used as the basis for review or whether the process should start 'from scratch'.

The main phases of the management planning process include:

1. Getting started - Establishment of a steering group, deciding on
the overall scope of the Plan and the management planning process,
agreeing on methodology, timetable, budget and staffing.
2. Participation - Ensuring everyone can get involved.
3. Drafting - Production of a draft Plan, and its circulation for comment to partners, other organisations, interest groups and the wider community.
4. Completion - Production of the final Management Plan, promotion
of the plan to stakeholders, adoption of the Plan by partners.
5. Implementation and review - Implementation of the Management Plan, review of its effectiveness, updating the plan.

The process outlined in this section of the guide is not intended to be a precise blueprint, and the ordering of events may differ in different AONBs.

It is important to allow adequate time for each stage and to keep all stakeholders informed of progress. It is unlikely that the whole process of preparing a new Management Plan could be completed in much less than two years. In practice it may take longer. Where there is an existing Plan, around which consensus has already developed, it may be possible to reduce the planning period, however it is still important to start the review process early in the planning cycle.

Plan preparation should be carefully costed, with resources required for each stage identified, and the necessary funding sought: or if necessary the process should be matched against those that are available. Management Plan production is likely to take a minimum of 200 days of professional staff input. Involvement of consultants in a participation process and in drafting the plan could cost anything from £5,000 - £50,000. It is not always the case that the most costly technique is the most effective. Administration, printing, cartography, photography and promotion costs also need to be estimated and budgeted for at the start of the process (see Section 3.4.1 Design matters on page 56).

The planning process should not stop with the publication of the Management Plan. It is important that participation is sustained to support the Plan's implementation and to review continually its objectives and achievements. AONB management planning should therefore be seen as an ongoing process of analysis, objective setting, monitoring, evaluation and review, with partners and other stakeholders involved at every stage of the process.

Getting started

It is vital that the planning process itself should be planned. Early agreement should be secured on methods to be used, on a timetable of stages, the participants to be involved, and on tasks to be undertaken, by whom and when.

Participation and information

An effective management planning process that results in a Plan that is supported, respected and implemented by a wide range of organisations and the local community should include active participation of stakeholders from the very beginning. Participation is not just consultation on policies and objectives. It is a dynamic and interactive process that identifies the major interests and concerns about the AONB and determines a set of mutually agreed objectives and priorities - by consensus.

With this approach the process can:

· Bring together a wide range of agencies and individuals, and create a common purpose and collective responsibility for the AONBs future.
· Seek to generate a consensus around a set of common aims based on a shared vision resulting in an agreed set of policies for AONB management.
· Engender a strong sense of ownership amongst organisations and individuals in the objectives of the Plan.

Who should be involved?

There are many organisations and individuals that have an interest in the management of an AONB and could potentially be involved in the planning process. The range, type and number of participants will depend on the size, character, issues and management pressures associated with the area. A 'key stakeholder analysis' will help to identify potential participants. This itself needs to be open and transparent, so that it results in a group that represents a broad cross-section of relevant organisations and local communities. Ideally such a group should include 'specific 'invitees' from relevant organisations in addition to people 'off the street' who are encouraged to participate by advertising events and activities.

Three groups of stakeholders should be represented:

People with information or skills relevant to the Plan and its preparation.
People affected by what happens as a consequence of the Plan.
People with authority and/or resources to act in implementing the Plan.

Many stakeholders will fit into more than one of these categories. It may be useful early on to sketch out a 'participation strategy' which analyses who might make a valuable contribution, and how they might best be involved.

Participation methods

Many different methods can be used for community participation and consultation, from 'Planning for Real' workshops through simple round table discussion groups to telephone surveys and postal questionnaires. Information is available on a variety of methods including how to run public meetings, how to develop sense of value in an area, and on many practical activities that encourage people to participate and express their views.

Techniques selected should be appropriate to the circumstances of the AONB, to the participants involved, and to the outcomes required. For example, activities directed towards those who live and work in an area are likely to be very different from those directed at visitors or holidaymakers. Creative and innovative approaches are most likely to engage successfully with local communities. Participation workshops can include activities that start to get people thinking about the value of their area by celebrating local distinctiveness, and focus minds on issues and solutions. The aim should be to keep the profile of the AONB high in the minds of the community and of participating organisations throughout the process. It will normally be necessary to consider a variety of levels of promotion with special events for key groups (such as local authorities and land management organisations) to raise the profile of the process and to promote the importance of the plan.

Different methods can be used at different stages during the process. For example, it may be advantageous to start the process with a series of exhibitions and widely publicised events. These raise the profile of the AONB and capture the attention of the community. It may then be appropriate to run a series of 'round table' events to identify broad visions and local aspirations. A further stage may involve visioning of solutions that could lead to specific management policy objectives. This could involve topic groups and focus groups working on particular issues. Where these are established it is important that they do not consist just of specialists in a particular area. For example, agricultural policies should not be discussed only by farmers, nor access policy only by ramblers.

Each stage should involve a broad cross section of stakeholders, including local authority members and officers, representatives of relevant organisations and interest groups and members of the community.This varied mix of participants encourages equality of involvement and helps to build a level of trust that is rare in more formal consultations.

Participation and consultation should be genuinely open, but beware of others hijacking the process for their own ends. The objective is to draw up an AONB Plan, so the agenda should focus on AONB priorities. The process should be used as an opportunity to educate people about the AONB. Be clear about the partnership's roles and powers, aiming to raise aspirations (but not necessarily expectations) amongst stakeholders. In particular it may be useful to agree key indicators of success as part of the participation process. This means everyone will be clear about what the plan is trying to achieve.

It is important that each stage in the consultation be recorded in detail and reported fully, both to those who participated in them, and to the larger community.

Many AONBs have subject/thematic plans or guidelines (e.g. on nature conservation, woodland management, transport or tourism) which will provide a first indication of key policy areas the plan needs to address. In addition there may be an 'Issues Report' or similar document which will provide a more rounded overview of other factors which need to be considered during the planning process.

In addition to these documents relating specifically to the AONB there will be a wide range of other plans and strategies, ranging from statutory development plans to individual site management plans. Information collected through the process of developing a community strategy (which local authorities are required to produce under the Local Government Act 2000) may be particularly valuable. Quantitative data can be of value in a number of different ways:

· As an input to the management planning process, for example, as an element of a comprehensive description of landscape character, to assess the level and nature of recreational use, or to evaluate the
· social and economic character and needs of local communities.
· As a component of the Plan in the form of statistics, tables or inset maps (to supplement the description of the AONB or to provide a rationale given for policies).
· To aid the implementation of the Plan (e.g. to facilitate integration or relation to development plans, or to meet the needs of AONB partners).
· As an output from the Plan (e.g. in its own right, or as an input to AONB promotional and interpretative literature).
· For monitoring and review, to 'complete the loop' of the planning process (to understand how the landscape is being conserved or enhanced, how its enjoyment by the public has been secured, or how the social and economic well being of local communities has been furthered).

Steering group

One first step is to establish a management plan 'steering group', involving AONB officers and perhaps members of the partnership. The steering group might be the AONB partnership itself, or a sub-group specifically established to pilot the process. Setting up and running the group should be done in much the same way as setting up a partnership for the AONB.The 'steering group' should include key individuals who represent a broad sample of partnership organisations. It should include local authorities, other funding agencies, interest groups and community representatives. The steering group should be relatively small and must be able to sustain the momentum of the management planning process. Its role is simply to manage the planning process, not to dictate policy.

Some initial considerations for the 'steering group' include the following:

· What are we all about? Define the remit, scope and collective objectives of the group. As well as preparation of the Management Plan, this should include the scope of the participation process, and the role of the group after the Plan is complete. It is useful to prepare and disseminate a statement, or 'mission', that embraces this remit.
· Where are we now? An early task should be to assemble and review the existing inputs to AONB management. This should include Statements of Intent, Issues Reports, current Management Plans, and other plans and strategies that are relevant to the area.
· What else is going on? It is important that the group is aware of any other parallel processes going on in the area. At a county and district level, for example, there may be initiatives relating to 'Best Value' consultations, community strategy development or development planning. Within the AONB other organisations may be conducting exercises such as Village Appraisals or preparing Habitat Action Plans. Constituent local authorities may be involved in management planning processes in other protected areas, including other AONBs. This involvement may offer opportunities for partnership members to increase the effectiveness of their contributions.

It may be possible to work jointly with colleagues involved in these initiatives, or it may be possible to use data they collect as an input to the AONB management planning process. It is particularly important to avoid participation/consultation fatigue and not to duplicate consultative processes which have already taken place.

· Where should we start and where should we be when we finish? The potential benefits of the proposed planning process need to be identified, against the strengths and weaknesses of other arrangements. For example, where good consultative bodies exist already they could be used. Even where a draft Plan already exists there are good reasons for starting planning as if from scratch, in order to generate the benefits of the process.
· Who will do what? An early decision needs to be made on who will lead the process, and how and when that person will report to the steering group. The lead individual may be the AONB officer or equivalent, or it may be another designated person from within the partnership. Sub-groups/ topic groups may be need to address different subjects and may involve, or even be led by, people from outside the AONB partnership.
· Consultants or in-house? Carrying out the work in-house will take a lot of staff time, but means staff can bring a personal insight to the job and cement personal relationships with stakeholders. Staff also may feel they have greater ownership of the end product. Contracting an outside specialist costs money, but should bring a level of objectivity and specific areas of professional expertise (for example, of consensus building or presentation) which may not be available in-house. If outside help is employed it is important to specify precisely what is to be done through a detailed project brief. Advice should be sought from others before drawing up a list of those who will be invited to tender. Consider proposals carefully and do not necessarily go for the cheapest bid!

Outside specialists may be particularly valuable in the consultation phase where professional market research may prove an important input to the planning process. It should always be clear to everyone involved that consultants are working on behalf of the partnership, not in their own right. Sometimes it may be best to have the consultant working alongside a member of the AONB unit staff, with a clearly defined role, for example as 'facilitator'.

· How will we let people know what is going on? A communication strategy is vital. There should be an identified point of reference for queries, but communication should also be proactive. For each stage in the planning process ways in which the outcome is to be communicated to participants and others should be specified.

· Keep records. Thank people, record responses, acknowledge inputs. The outcome of each stage of the process and who has been involved should also be recorded.

· Timetable and budget. Finally, the steering group should prepare an Action Plan for the planning process that includes a schedule of key events and a budget, and make arrangements for regular reviews of progress. At an early stage the impact of planning work on support staff, and on the ability of the AONB unit to work on other projects, should be assessed.

10 The product

There is no 'ideal' format, structure or content of an AONB Plan. These need to be tailored to the needs of the AONB and to the functions intended for the Plan, which will go well beyond the roles of just the AONB unit.
This section of the guide:

· Outlines general principles which will help guide decisions on plan content.
· Presents a generic plan format which can be used as a template to suit individual circumstances.
· Discusses some of the topics which may need to be addressed in the Plan.
· Considers how the Plan may best be presented and produced.

Management topics can be handled in two broad ways:

1. Encapsulate the whole AONB and all topics within the planning sequence (i.e. main sections in the plan might be description, vision, policies etc.).

2. Have separate chapters for each main topic, for example landscape, local community issues and access to the countryside (each section includes sub-sections on description, issues, policies etc.).

Most AONB planners have gone for option 2, or a variation on it, as outlined in Section 3.3 Common themes in AONB Management Plans on page 49. Whatever approach is adopted there must be coherence across the whole Plan - ensuring that the end product is not a dozen separate Plans bound together in a single document.

Careful consideration should be given as to whether the policies expressed in the plan should be zoned. Zoning may enable particular suites of policies may be 'tailored' to specific areas of the AONB. However it may also undermine the coherence of the AONB, and care should be taken that zoning is done in a way that enhances rather than undermines unity and consistency. Particularly where the AONB covers several different planning authority areas it is important to make sure that zones do not simply reinforce the differences between the policies of constituent local authorities. Zoning based on Countryside Character Areas, reflecting tangible differences visible on the ground, is normally to be preferred.

In general, zoning is less of a feature in AONB Plans than it is with other plans which relate to a single planning authority (e.g. National Park Plans). Even when a Plan does use geographical zones to help clarify where different policies apply, zonation should always be subsidiary to the key thematic topics addressed by the Plan.

Mention should be made of all the major aspects of interest, covering both natural and cultural topics. However the description section of an AONB Management Plan should not go into enormous detail on any one aspect of the AONB. It is better to present a brief summary of key points, and to tell the reader where more detailed information can be found (for example, in a published landscape assessment or in a separate topic plan).

While much of the description will be factual some elements may be quite subjective. Indicate the basis for such subjective opinions, ideally referring to other documents or authorities.

High quality information about AONBs is not always available (see Appendix 3 on page 91). Much of the information about AONBs may be fragmentary or inconsistent, and Management Plans should acknowledge any sigsnificant data shortfalls. Making good these shortfalls might be identified as a priority action within the Plan itself.

· Principal issues in the AONB.These will include current threats, trends and pressures which are impacting on the special qualities identified above. It may be easiest to tackle this section by considering a range of topics, and any issues related to AONB designation. Mention will need to be made of broader government policies and other legislative context. It is important to distinguish clearly between factors which the AONB partnerships must accept as 'givens', and factors which the partnership (or constituent partners) can control, or seek to influence.
· A report of the participative process used to produce the Plan, and a summary of the main findings. This summary should bring out the 'flavour' of the responses and describe how it has influenced the development of the Plan. The methods used for the process and the nature of the information gathered will help to determine the structure of the document. If, for example, rural economy and development issues were emphasised repeatedly and consistently in the participation stages these should be addressed by specific policies. They might be allocated their own sections in the Plan, or should be emphasised specifically in other relevant sections.
· A Vision for the AONB's future, in terms that are likely to secure the commitment and/or arouse the curiosity of the reader. The vision should be specific to the AONB, not so general that it could be applied to almost any protected landscape. This vision should be memorable, framed in 'plain English', and preferably stated in as few words as possible. This is a long term view of where the AONB is going, typically looking forward 20-40 years.
· Policies for the AONB. These will generally be presented in the form of measurable objectives which will relate to the previous assessment of the AONB and to the different issues raised, and which, if achieved, will move the AONB towards the stated vision. Policies will normally include a statement of the methods by which the objectives will be addressed. Often there will be a number of different ways of achieving any objective, and this needs to be made clear (see Section 2.3.4 Analysis on page 39).
· Tasks that need to be undertaken to achieve the objectives. These will form the Action Plan, sometimes presented in the form of a table stating what needs to be done, by whom, and to what timescale.

11 Themes

Management policies developed in the Plan will need to address all of the key issues identified during the consultation process. These should of course be linked to the purpose of the AONB designation, to conserve and enhance natural beauty.There is therefore likely to be a degree of commonality between AONBs, reflecting their shared status and goals. The relative emphasis given to different topics depends entirely on local circumstances, and the level of detail may reflect how well the topic is dealt with elsewhere. For example, if all the constituent local authorities of an AONB have recently produced statutory Rights of Way Improvement Plans which identifies action pertinent to and for the AONB then the AONB Management Plan may not need to devote much space to this topic. It is likely that every Plan will encompass most, if not all, of the following topics.

· Landscape quality.
· Landscape character and local distinctiveness.
· Natural heritage and biodiversity.
· Archaeology and historic landscapes.
· Agriculture.
· Forestry.
· Local communities and cultural activities.
· Local economy and employment.
· Housing and the built environment.
· Transport and traffic.
· Mineral extraction.
· Other development issues, for example radio masts, wind. farms and waste disposal.
· Military use.
· • Water cycle and coastal management.
· Tourism, recreation and active sports.
· Marketing and promotion of the AONB.
· Rights of Way.
· Access to the countryside.

These topics can be treated individually or lumped together into fewer sections in the AONB Plan, as an alternative to the more unitary plan structure presented above (in Section 3.2.1 Contents on page 45). Each topic section might then cover the phases described for the whole plan i.e. ideally containing the following information:

· Contextual information.
· Key issues.
· What the participative process revealed about the topic - an insight into stakeholders' views.
· Long term management aims, identifying a 'desired state' for the topic with justifications.
· Policies, linking shorter term objectives to relevant actions.
· Priorities for action.
· Key indicators.

Sometimes separate topic or sectoral sub-plans will be needed to deal with the topic in adequate depth (see Section 1.3.3 Other AONB policies and documents on page 27).
The examples on the next few pages demonstrate a range of approaches taken when dealing with these topics.

12 Management

All Management Plans need a system which specifies exactly what needs to be done during the period covered by the plan. Management on the ground should be accompanied by effective monitoring, which in turn should feed into a review of the plan policies and the action programme.

This section of the guide deals with how to:

· Ensure the Plan policies are implemented effectively.
· Monitor the extent to which the AONB Plan is implemented in practice, and the consequences of management for the AONB itself.
· Review and update both the main AONB Plan and the Action Plan (where this is a separate document).

Implementing the Plan

The key to effective implementation of a Management Plan is successful consultation and involvement of all players in the production of the Plan, ensuring commitment to carry out allocated tasks. Policies are often thematic, but their delivery is often geographic, involving action in different places at particular times, by specific individuals. The Plan should inform action at both a local (community) scale, and at a wider regional scale (sometimes going beyond the AONB boundary).

Those drawing up an AONB Management Plan should be clear about the needs and roles of partner organisations, and what they are able to deliver. The tasks and outcomes allocated to each must be appropriate and deliverable. Partner organisations in turn need to be realistic and serious with regard to the responsibilities that they have accepted. The achievement of Plan objectives and the implementation of identified actions falls to many people besides AONB unit staff. AONB unit staff do however have a key role in negotiating priorities with partners and ensuring action.

The Action Plan

The AONB Action Plan needs to be constructed and presented in such a way that different players and partner organisations can relate to it and find it useful to them. The Action Plan needs to identify:

· What is to be done, by whom, and within what timescale.
· What specific targets have been agreed.
· What resources will be required and from where they will be found.
· How the implementation of the Plan is to be monitored and how the Action Plan itself should be reviewed.

Implementation measures need to be presented in an accessible way in the plan. One way is to list them adjacent to the relevant policies. Another approach is to draw together implementation measures into a separate chapter or appendix. It may be useful to present the Action Plan as a separate document which can be reviewed and updated separately from (and more frequently than) the Strategy Plan..
There are advantages and disadvantages to having a separate Strategy Plan and Action Plan as opposed to a single integrated document. If the main Plan only deals with general strategy, it may be easier for partner organisations to sign up to it. However if partners do not sign up to the Action Plan as well, it may be more difficult to secure action. The solution is likely to depend on the circumstances of each AONB.

13 Monitoring

The AONB partnership needs to develop mechanisms so it can check:

· Whether (or to what extent) tasks identified in the Action Plan are carried out as specified (monitoring action).
· Whether the tasks are having the desired outcomes in terms of the impact on the AONB itself (monitoring condition).

These two types of monitoring are related to one another, but need to be considered separately. Monitoring condition enables the AONB partnership to assess the extent to which actions are achieving the desired outcomes and stated objectives. Sometimes, for example, tasks will be carried out as planned without having the desired effects. At the same time other factors will lead to changes in the AONB, which may necessitate a management response. Both types of monitoring demand resources, but both should be kept as simple as possible.

Monitoring action

Monitoring action involves checking whether tasks have been carried out as specified in the plan. It is often best to maintain an ongoing overview of activities, and pull this information together into quarterly and/or annual monitoring reports.

Monitoring of the work carried out by partner bodies needs to be done sensitively. It may be best if such monitoring is done by the partner bodies themselves, and then reported through a joint meeting with partner representatives. Monitoring of the work carried out by the AONB unit itself can be integrated with the review of the AONB Business Plan.

As a bare minimum tasks can be simply be ticked off as completed, but in addition it is valuable to record whether they were completed ahead or behind schedule, and - if the information is available - at what cost in terms of both time and money. Comparisons can then be made with the original budget, and these data will make it easier to draw up a realistic Action Plan in subsequent years. It is also of value if a record is kept of any particular problems or spin off benefits which have occurred in implementing Action Plan tasks.

Monitoring condition

Monitoring condition is about assessing changes over time. It generally needs to be ongoing, as comparative data will often be the most valuable, although sometimes a single 'snapshot' will reveal what needs to be known. Monitoring will necessarily be selective, concentrating on particular features of interest. These may be indicators selected to provide a meaningful measure of AONB quality. It may be based on repeated surveys or data collected by others (see Appendix 3: Information sources and data for AONB planning on, or it may be more useful to select indicators relevant to specific Management Plan policies.

Many measures will be proxy indicators. For example, data on the populations of a notable species of bird may be an indicator of success in protecting a particular habitat. Data on a particular landscape feature (such as hedgerows) may be related to other, less easily measured changes in the landscape.
Monitoring does not always involve the collection of quantitative data. Fixed point photographs can be a good means of identifying landscape and habitat changes. Surveys of visitors or of local residents can be used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, and will, for example, reveal user perceptions of the quality of services such as transport. These perceptions may often be as important as more tangible measures. One-off or regular meetings of advisory groups representing a particular interest, or of topic/ focus groups of 'users' can also play a significant role in monitoring AONB performance. Professional judgement and experience is needed to interpret the outputs of such groups.


A critical aspect of monitoring is selection of indicators. This requires an in depth understanding of Plan objectives and of the nature of the AONB. For example, two AONBs might set themselves similar objectives in terms of road verge management, but it might be appropriate for one to measure success in terms of the number of vascular plants per square metre, while in the other a visual measure such as fixed point photography might be deemed more relevant. If stakeholders are engaged in debate about indicators during the participation phase of plan production this will add focus, and it should be possible to achieve unanimity on how success will be measured.

Principles for the selection of appropriate indicators

Indicators which measure the quality of aspects of AONBs should be:

· Expressed in terms that the interested public can understand and relate to.
· Relevant to issues and policies highlighted within the Management Plan.
· Capable of replication to show trends and change over time and permit the identification of baselines
· or bench-marks.
· Applicable at a range of scales in order that data can be split down to a ward or parish level, and also understood at a county, regional or national level.
· Based on standard procedures wherever possible in order to contribute to national or regional datasets and to enable comparisons, for example with adjacent areas or with other AONBs.
· Complementary to, or integrated with, other indicators, including the government's published 'Quality of Life Counts' and to the Countryside Agency's 'State of the Countryside' reports.

Monitoring can use up a disproportionate amount of resource. It is therefore important to consider how information is going to be used before time and money is spent collecting it. An AONB monitoring strategy will:

· Identify the features or problems to be monitored.
· Select key indicators or values to be recorded.
· Review which other organisations are already collecting relevant data, with a view both to sharing data and to ensuring that data is collected to a common methodology. This will enable comparisons to be made.
· Decide how the recording is to be carried out.
· Allocate responsibility (and perhaps resources) to do the job.

A great deal of ongoing monitoring is undertaken by other bodies in areas of relevance to their own interests. For example, English Nature have their own well established programmes for monitoring species and
habitat change, while the Countryside Agency uses a comprehensive set of indicators in its annual 'State of the Countryside' reports. The AONB unit needs to take advantage of these programmes and use the results to assess the results of its own planning and management. One useful function of the Management Plan may be to list the different kinds of monitoring that are taking place within the AONB and the organisations responsible.

'Best Value'

'Best Value' affects all AONB units. This is a legal requirement on local authorities and should be considered good practice for the AONB partnership and its members. It may provide the basis for developing a common approach between different local authorities on certain issues. The 'Best Value' approach can be incorporated into the AONB Plan, helping to identify the most useful performance indicators. The AONB management planning process can also provide useful Best Value outcome measures for the partnership and for partner organisations themselves