Landscape and the countryside
The landscape in Wycombe district has been created by a combination of physical, historic, natural, social and economic processes. The topography has a strong influence over the landscape, with extensive areas of ancient woodland across the district.
A significant proportion of Wycombe district lies within the Chilterns AONB, recognising the highly scenic quality of the landscape.
Landscape character assessment
- National scale – National Character Area (NCA) assessments are available on the Natural England website where there are links to Landscape Character Areas (LCAs) covering the local area.
Landscape and visual impact assessment
Trees, hedges and hedgerows
See the trees and hedges page for information on the importance and protection of trees, hedges, and hedgerows in Wycombe.
You'll find practical advice on planting native hedgerows in our handy guide to planting a native hedge [PDF | 339KB].
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a landscape of national and international importance. The area includes a complex suite of geological and ecological features, some of which are extremely rare. Over a quarter of the Chilterns AONB is within Wycombe district so we hold a significant responsibility to cherish it.
AONB represent areas of the highest scenic quality and, in landscape terms, are intended to enjoy equal status with National Parks. The primary purpose of AONB designation is the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape.
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Chilterns AONB) is a living landscape encompassing a variety of character areas and a range of settlements types. The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s special qualities include the steep chalk escarpment with areas of flower-rich downland, broadleaved woodlands (especially beech), commons, tranquil valleys, the network of ancient routes, villages with their brick and flint houses, globally rare chalk streams and a rich historic environment of hillforts and chalk figures. The Chilterns has areas of tranquillity and remoteness along with visually sensitive skylines, geological and topographical features as which contribute towards making this a special landscape.
The Chilterns Conservation Board is the public body established to conserve and enhance the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
You can find out if you live in the Chilterns AONB by following the steps below.
- Go to MyMaps
- Enter the address / postcode of the area you're interested in
- Select the 'Planning Policy' map category using the '+'
- Select the 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' layer by ticking the box
- Click on the property in the map window to see if it falls within the AONB
Planning and the AONB
The Council considers all proposals for development within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty very carefully, and will not permit any development that would unacceptably harm its natural beauty.
Planning proposals in the AONB are assessed carefully to ensure there is no adverse impact on the AONB. Before considering any development in the AONB we strongly encourage that you use our Planning Advice Service.
The Council requires development within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to:
- conserve, and where possible enhance, the natural beauty of the Chilterns AONB
- be appropriate to the economic and social wellbeing of the local communities within the AONB, or to promote the understanding or enjoyment of the AONB
- deliver the highest quality design which respects the natural beauty and built heritage of the Chilterns and enhances the sense of place and local character
Proposals will also need to consider relevant planning policy, including: Wycombe's Development Plan, the Chilterns AONB Management Plan (2019-2024), and the Chilterns Building Design Guide.
Depending on the proposal, the Council may require applicants to provide a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment for any significant proposals within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or its setting.
Please use our Planning Advice Service to see if you are required to submit an LVIA.
- Chilterns Conservation Board - the public body established to conserve and enhance the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Chilterns AONB Management Plan (2019-2024) - the plan that sets out the vision, policies and actions for the management of the Chilterns AONB for the period 2019–2024, and describes how best to conserve, enhance and enjoy the Chilterns
Development proposals which lie outside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but within its setting can also have impacts on it. The Council’s duty of regard applies to development outside but which would affect land in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For example, views out of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from key visitor viewpoints into surrounding areas can be very significant. Although it does not have a defined geographical boundary, the setting of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the area within which developments, by virtue of their nature, size, scale, siting, materials or design could be considered to have an impact, either positive or negative, on the natural beauty and special qualities of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Where development in the setting of the AONB would demonstrably harm the AONB, and having regard to the scale of harm and the significance of the landscape, consent will be refused unless this harm is outweighed by other land use planning benefits.
Please see the Wycombe District Local Plan and Chilterns AONB Management Plan (external link) for guidance on proposals that affect the setting of the AONB. You can also read the Chilterns Conservation Board position statement on development affecting the AONB setting (external link) for further information.
For frequently asked questions on designations such as the AONB, please browse our planning FAQs.