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FAQs

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  1. What is an AONB?

  2. What is meant by natural beauty?

  3. Who looks after an AONB?

  4. What is a Geopark?

  5. What is the purpose of AONB designation?

  6. What are the key special qualities of the North Pennines?


What is an AONB?

Unique and irreplaceable

AONBs are unique and irreplaceable national assets and along with National Parks they represent our finest countryside. There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, covering 18% of the country's land area. There are also eight AONBs in Northern Ireland. They range in size from the Isles of Scilly (16 square kms) to the Cotswolds (2,038 square kms). AONBs have their roots in the same legislation that brought about the National Parks - the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act,1949, which has been consolidated by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Protected landscape

The UK's AONBs and National Parks are within a worldwide category of protected areas known as 'Protected Landscapes', which has been devised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Varied family

The North Pennines, at almost 2,000 square kms, is the second largest member of this large and varied family. The AONBs are special places, distinguished by the natural beauty of their distinctive and nationally important landscapes. In terms of landscape quality, the AONBs are recognised as the equal of our National Parks and are given the same level of protection.

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What is meant by natural beauty?

Landscape. industry and community

By 'natural beauty' we mean much more than just the look of the landscape; in the context of AONBs, natural beauty includes landform, geology, plants and animals, landscape features and the rich history of human settlement over the centuries.  These things, though of great importance, don't of course occur in isolation; in conserving the natural beauty of AONBs, it is essential to take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry, other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities.

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Who looks after an AONB?

Working in partnership

Each AONB has a 'joint advisory body' that brings together representatives of those organisations and groups with a major role to play in looking after the area. Each of these Partnerships has an AONB Staff Unit; as well as producing the AONB Management Plan on behalf of partner local authorities, the Staff Units co-ordinate the work of others, and take action themselves, to ensure that our AONBs remain special for present and future generations to enjoy, as places to live and work and as places to visit.

Local people

Local communities, landowners, farmers and estate managers look after the living landscapes of the North Pennines.These people have helped mould the landscape for centuries and this continues today. Everyone who has an interest in the North Pennines has a responsibility to care for the AONB.

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What is a Geopark?

Outstanding geology

European Geoparks are areas in Europe with an outstanding geological heritage, where there is considerable local effort to conserve this heritage and encourage its enjoyment and understanding by the public and with the aim of supporting sustainable development.

Global Network

The Global Geopark Network was established in April 2004, with the then 17 European Geoparks at the forefront of this worldwide family of special places.

It is more of a 'status' than a formal 'designation'. The founding Geoparks registered the Geopark brand and were successful in getting UNESCO support and recognition for it. It is a young status, only being established in 2000.

There are (as of January 2012) now 49 European Geoparks. These are currently in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Greece, Norway, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic. All the European Geoparks are also part of the Global Geoparks Network. There are a further 28 Global Geoparks, most of which are in China.

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What is the purpose of AONB designation?

Conserve and enhance

The North Pennines was designated as an AONB on 7th June 1988. The primary purpose of AONB designation is to 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area'.

In pursuing the primary purpose account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities. Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.

Recreation is not an objective of designation, but the demand for recreation should be met so far as this is consistent with the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses.

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What are the key special qualities of the North Pennines?

Peaceful, unspoilt, rich and vibrant

The North Pennines is one of England's most special places - a peaceful, unspoilt landscape with a rich history and vibrant natural beauty. Tumbling waterfalls, sweeping moorland views, dramatic upland dales, stone-built villages, snaking stonewalls and friendly faces - the North Pennines has all this and more!

In the North Pennines you'll find:

  • 40% of the UK's upland hay meadows
  • 30% of England's upland heathland and 27% of its blanket bog
  • 80% of England's black grouse
  • 36% of the AONB designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Red squirrels, otters and rare arctic-alpine plants
  • 22,000 pairs of breeding wading birds
  • Stunning geological sites - such as High Force, England's biggest waterfall
  • 16 Conservation Areas and 183 Scheduled Monuments

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