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Areas of outstanding natural beauty

More than 70% of the borough of Tunbridge Wells lies within the High Weald, considered to be an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


Permitted development rights

The status of an AONB is equivalent to that of the National Parks and together they share the highest level of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

Designation demands that planning policies and decisions should focus on the conservation and enhancement of the landscape. The conservation of wildlife and cultural heritage are also important considerations.

We recognise the importance of this area and will only permit development if it protects or enhances the natural beauty and special characteristics of the area.

Major developments should not take place in these designated areas, except in exceptional circumstances.

If your property falls within an AONB this may affect your permitted development rights. Before commencing any development within the High Weald AONB potential applicants should seek professional advice.

History of the AONB

Mainly formed during the fourteenth century, and little altered since, the Kent High Weald is considered to be one of the best surviving coherent medieval landscapes in northern Europe. Hilly sandstone terrain and a heavy clay soil have caused the High Weald countryside to remain largely unaffected by modern forms of agriculture.

It is characterised by rolling hills, scattered farmsteads, small irregular-shaped fields, ancient woodland, and historic routeways. In 1983 the High Weald was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), allowing for increased conservation and enhancement of this important landscape.

It extends across 1461 sq km, with 15% of it falling in the Tunbridge Wells borough.

Map illustrating the extent of the High Weald AONB within the Tunbridge Wells Borough

If you would like to learn more about the High Weald, and how you can help to preserve this important landscape, please visit the High Weald AONB website.

Borough landscape

The Borough Landscape Character Area Assessment is a key tool in protecting the important landscape across the borough of Tunbridge Wells and helps form planning decisions. It was updated in 2011 and is a Supplementary Planning Document forming part of the Local Development Framework.

The information contained in the document may be of relevance to any strategy, project or activity that impacts upon the landscape, whether or not it is subject to planning consent.

The landscape of the borough has been assessed and divided into 19 Character Areas, based on their natural characteristics and historical influences. The Character Areas cover the rural landscape of the borough which includes small towns and villages.