A Strengthened Duty of Regard

19 February 2024

A Strengthened Duty of Regard:

A revised duty for relevant authorities to ‘seek to further’ the purpose (to conserve and enhance natural beauty) of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (rebranded as National Landscapes) came into force on 26th December 2023. There is still work to be done, but we hope this new duty will mark a further step-change and provide an opportunity for bringing together all organisations to work positively to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Lincolnshire Wolds…

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 amends Section 85 of the CRoW Act, to create a new duty on public bodies to ‘seek to further the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty when discharging their functions in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (now known as National Landscapes). The single purpose of AONB designation is ‘the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty’. In determining planning applications, the local planning authority must be able to demonstrate how they have actively sought to ‘seek to further the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty’, in considering the planning implications and its impacts on the AONB. The way in which the purpose of designation might be proposed to be furthered, or the evidence of the genuine attempt to seek to do so, should be open to scrutiny.

Interim advice provided by Natural England on complying with the new duty is that seeking to further conservation and enhancement goes beyond mitigation and like for like measures, and replacement.  The proposed measures to further the purposes should explore what is possible in addition to avoiding and mitigating the effects of the development and should align with and help to deliver the aims and objectives of the protected landscape’s management plan.  Natural England has advised that the new duty underlines the importance of avoiding harm to the statutory purposes of protected landscapes.