Agenda item

Norfolk Coast AONB Updated Management Plan (2019-2024), revised 2022



This report provides an explanation and summary of the modifications made to the current Norfolk Coast AONB Management Plan (2014-2019) and seeks approval for formal endorsement of an updated Management Plan   (2019-2024) by NNDC, as a member authority of The Norfolk Coast Partnership, the AONB Management Body.





Members of the Planning Policy & Built Heritage Working Party recommend to Cabinet that the contents of the updated Norfolk Coast AONB Management Plan (2019-2024) are endorsed for use as a material planning consideration in the determination of planning applications.




Cabinet Member(s)

Cllr Andrew Brown


Ward(s) affected



All Members


All Wards

Contact Officer, telephone number and email:


Iain Withington, Team Leader Planning Policy – (01263) 516034

Cathy Batchelar, Senior Landscape Officer – (01263 516155)



  1. The SLO introduced the Officers report and recommendation. She advised that the Council had a statutory duty as a partner of Norfolk Coast Partnership to prepare and publish a plan for the management of the AONB, and to review that plan at intervals of no more than 5 years.


It was noted that Norfolk Coast Partnership had been undertaking a structural review. The Partnership included representatives an Officer and Member representative from Norfolk County Council, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, North Norfolk District Council and Natural England.


The SLO advised this was a slight refresh of the existing management plan and the intention was that a major review of the management plan be undertaken in due course pending guidance following the Glover review.


The SLO noted the main changes, as set out in section 1.5 of the Officers report.


  1. The Chairman noted North Norfolk was the third most bio-diverse area in the County and asked if there was a case to argue for an international dark skies designation. He reflected that light pollution had been a key issue for the Development Committee.


  1. The SLO advised there were areas of the UK which held the international designation, and commented that there was the intention to obtain other designations within the AONB. She acknowledged this was an area already covered NNDC Local Plan Policy EN1 specifically references Dark Skies and Policy EN2 which looks at retention of nocturnal character. The AONB team were working as a priority to publish further guidance. The SLO advised she would be happy to feedback any requests from the Council to Norfolk Coast Partnership.


  1. The PPM echoed the SLO comments and affirmed as a partner in the organisation, perhaps more could be done to effectively influence what it is the organisation does. The PPM reflected that when he was the Officer Representative that it was not the norm to routinely report back the work of the Partnership to the Council, which may have adversely impacted Members understanding of the Partnership and its functions. He considered the Council could be more active in directing the Partnership on what it does on the Councils behalf, including issues surrounding Dark Skies, and that this ought to feature in the next management review in the next cycle.


The PPM considered that the update presented to Members was effectively an interim review with the expectation that a more substantial review take place which would better engage with the district partners.


  1. The PPTL stated that it was important not to confuse ‘Dark Skies’ designation with planning designation. Dark Skies designation applied to areas which were particularly dark and provided astrological views of skies in dedicated remote locations away from artificial lights. The Local Plan focused more on the character of the landscape, and the value features of the landscape as demonstrated through landscape studies.


  1. The SLO endorsed the PPTL comments that an international dark skies designation was not a planning designation. She argued there was much to be gained with working with other Partnerships in the wider AONB family.


  1. The Chairman asked how the duty to co-operate could be promoted. 


  1. The PPM confirmed that as Member of the AONB Partnership, it was reasonable to ask for the Partnership to look into specific areas or projects i.e. Dark Skies designation. He noted that the Partnership had considered Dark Skies Designation, but it was considered that it may be challenging to achieve international status given the rigor of the application process. There were two tiers of designation, the first was locally designated dark sky observatory sites (which existed within the district), and the other was international designation.


  1. Cllr A Fitch-Tillett advised of changes to the Partnership in the last year, with a great change in the Officer lead and representation. Further, the publication of the Glover Report had impacted on the management plan. The document for consideration was intended to be a quick refresh to serve as place holder pending a large review which would implement guidance from the Glover Report. She offered insight as Vice-Chairman of the Partnership regarding the restructured team, and the intention for a Coastal Manager to be appointed.


With reference to the wider AONB family, Cllr A Fitch-Tillett commented that the various AONB Partnerships met annually and that she and the NNDC Officer representative would feedback discussions surrounding Dark Skies.


She recommended the refreshed report and commended the SLO for her input, noting the extensive list in Appendix 2 of all the aspects which needed to be considered as part of the Management Plan. 


  1. The Chairman commended the SLO and the Partnership for the document, and spoke highly of the glossary contained therein.


  1. Cllr W Fredericks thanked Officers and Cllr A Fitch-Tillett for her work. She asked if her ward of Mundesley could be considered within the AONB going forward.


  1. Cllr A Fitch-Tillett advised there was no intention to change AONB boundaries, and noted the challenges in achieving this status which would essentially require an act of parliament.


  1. Cllr V Holliday echoed the Chairman’s comments that more should be done to protect dark skies. She questioned how GIRAMS payments were agreed to be spent, as it was considered by residents that they did not have enough say. In addition, she was interested with how the North Norfolk AONB compared with others, noting that out of 7 conditions, 5 were Amber, one of which had gone from Green to Amber in this administration. Cllr V Holliday enquired what assurance could be made that the document was actually protecting the District’s excellent countryside and shoreline.


  1. The SLO advised that the condition monitoring should influence priorities and actions, a matter from which the SLO as the NNDC representative on the Partnership has championed.


  1. The PPM defined GIRAMs and its purpose in collecting tariff payments off developers to be used in mitigation against visitor pressures on international designated wildlife sites.  Since 31st March 2022 money had been collected (payable on the commencement of development) and pooled by Local Authorities. No agreement was in place as to how this money would be spent and administered. The current proposal was that a joint body would be established across the county with a Member and Officer Representative from each administration which would establish the rules, receive and agree bids. 


He noted that it was not the AONB Partnership’s tariff payment, nor was it for them to spend. However, Kings Lynn Borough Council had entered into a service level agreement with the AONB Partnership which would permit the Partnership to vet applications for funding, and make recommendations for expenditure.


The fund was expected to collect £17 million over the next 20 years, which would be utilised on many exciting and significant projects.


  1. Cllr G Mancini-Boyle asked when the substantial review was to take place and if it would built on the good things contained within the current management plan. He asked if there was a consultation process with Local Member’s and others who had greater knowledge of their area.


  1. The SLO advised that the Partnership were awaiting guidance from the Glover review which would impact the next tranche of management plans. She affirmed that there was benefit in keeping what worked well and in engaging with the wider AONB family to share ideas. As part of the re-structure of the Partnership, sub-groups would be established to look into particular projects, such sub-groups were expected to consult more broadly with third parties and relevant stakeholders.


  1. Cllr N Dixon advised he was content with the update, and was minded that there was scope for a broader discussion pending the larger review. He proposed acceptance of the Officer recommendation.


  1. The Chairman noted section 1.5 of the Officers report and the absence of reference to the Glaven Valley Rural Conservation Area designation and asked if this could be added. The SPO advised this would be added in due course.


  1. Cllr P Heinrich seconded the Officers recommendation.




That Members of the Planning Policy & Built Heritage Working Party recommend to Cabinet that the contents of the updated Norfolk Coast AONB Management Plan (2019-2024) are endorsed for use as a material planning consideration in the determination of planning applications.


Supporting documents: