The Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced earlier this year that he was launching review into the country’s natural landscapes, nearly 70 years on from the creation of the first national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Part of that review could mean extending or creating more of these designated areas of protected countryside. For anyone thinking about buying a country house within one of these special areas of the countryside, here’s what you might like to know.
What are national parks and AONBs?
Dubbed “Britain’s breathing spaces,” there are 10 national parks in England taking on some of the most attractive countryside stretching from Dartmoor and Exmoor in Devon, the New Forest in Hampshire, the South Downs and north to the Lake District and Northumberland. Unlike famous national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite in the United States, which are owned and managed by the government, the land within English national parks remains largely in private ownership but are watched over by authorities when it comes to planning and development.
The concept of a national park was born in the United States where they were established to protect wilderness areas at a time when migration, thanks to the opening up of the frontier through railroads, was moving quickly westwards. Here in Britain, it was the romantic poets including Wordsworth and Byron who highlighted the beauty of untamed countryside and started the discussion about opening up access to all. The idea was controversial with landowners but after World War II, the Labour Party proposed the establishment of national parks as part of the post-war reconstruction. In 1949, with the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, this was enshrined in law. The first to be created were the Peak District, Lake District, Snowdonia and Dartmoor in 1951.
Fewer in number but just as stringent when it comes to planning and developments, there are 38 AONBs in England and Wales which covers the Surrey Hills, Chichester Harbour, the Chilterns and the Cotswolds, among others. They were first proposed at the same time as national parks but couldn’t be classified as such due to their smaller size and lack of wilderness areas.
Is buying a home within a national park or AONB more expensive?
Invariably, the answer is yes. Various studies have revealed that living within a national park commands a premium; last year research by Lloyds Bank revealed that homes in four of England’s national parks—including the New Forest and South Downs—attract a premium in excess of £150,000 on county averages. Further research, also published in 2017, investigated the most expensive AONBs with the Surrey Hills and Chichester Harbour taking first and second position.
What to know before buying a home within a national park or AONB
The upsides are that you are buying in an area which is unlikely to change radically in the future so views are generally protected. The potential downside is when it comes to securing planning permission. Only local authorities or the Secretary of State can give permission for development in an AONB while each national park is managed by its own governing authority. Extensions and rebuilds aren’t out of the question when a property sits within a national park or AONB, it’s just that any proposals will likely to be put under greater scrutiny by planners. Most planning advisors agree that extensions or rebuilds are preferable to new build schemes within these designated areas and that design and materials used in the construction are key aspects to consider in order to have the best chance of a proposal gaining approval.
Properties for sale in national parks and AONBs:
A four-bedroom house in 16 acres with some of the best views of Dartmoor. For more information please contact Winkworth Exeter or call 01392 271177.
A five-bedroom modernised family house within the New Forest national park. For more information please contact Winkworth Sway or call 01590 683834.
A five-bedroom house near Petersfield and within the South Downs national park. For more information please contact Winkworth Petersfield or call 01730 267274.
A four-bedroom farmhouse which has been renovated near Amersham in the Chilterns AONB. For more information please contact Winkworth Beaconsfield or call 01494 677978.