North Devon Coast

National Landscape

01392 388628

About the North Devon Coast National Landscape

In November 2023 the North Devon Coast AONB was renamed as a National Landscape. It is one of a family of ‘Protected Landscapes’ in the South West of England including Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks as well as 12 other National Landscapes. Together the cover 37% of land in the South West Region. It contains a diversity of scenery, landscapes and habitats and encompasses the Hartland Heritage Coast, North Devon Heritage Coast and the internationally famous UNESCO Biosphere Reserve centred on Braunton Burrows.

Although the AONB designation stays with us (see below) the new name reflects our national importance and the vital contribution we make to protect the nation from the threats of climate change, nature depletion and the wellbeing crisis, whilst also creating greater understanding and awareness for the work of the whole National Landscapes family.

AONB Designation

The North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in 1960, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The primary purpose of AONB designations is: “To conserve and enhance natural beauty”.

In pursuing the primary purpose, account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry and rural industries as well as the economic and social needs of local communities. Regard should be paid to social and economic development that conserves and enhances the environment. Whilst recreation is not an objective of the designation, the demand for recreation should be met insofar as it is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty.

With the introduction of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000, Section 85 placed a duty on all public bodies to have due regard to the purposes of the AONB designation and to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB.

Section 89 places a statutory duty on local authorities with an AONB in their area to produce a Management Plan. The relevant authorities are North Devon Council, Torridge District Council and Devon County Council who contribute 25% of the annual core funding for the AONB to match the 75% from Defra.

Special Qualities

Two studies of landscape characteristics in the North Devon Coast National Landscape have identified 16 special qualities to define “some of the finest coastal scenery in the country”, the reason for its designation in 1960:-

  1. Diversity of scenery contained within a small area, including some of the finest cliff scenery in the country.
  2. Panoramic seascape with seaward views to Lundy within the Atlantic Ocean, across the Bristol Channel to Wales and along the coastline. These views are of a landscape and seascape devoid of human influence.
  3. Narrow framed views of the sea from coastal mouths of steep sided combes.
  4. Panoramic views across a rolling landscape of pastoral farmland and wooded combes and valleys, towards the sea from elevated inland areas.
  5. Wild coastal scenery. In the north, hogsback cliffs of varying heights; in the south high, rugged cliffs, dramatic rock formations, exposed headlands, wave cut platforms and rocky coves.
  6. A vast sand dune system at Braunton Burrows of exposed wild character, with high nature-conservation interest of international importance, and the pebble ridge at Westward Ho!
  7. Long, broad sandy beaches backed by extensive dune systems.
  8. A strong sense of tranquillity and remoteness where the coast road is located away from the coastline.
  9. Rare and fragile quality of wilderness in Braunton Burrows and on the Hartland coast.
  10. Historic landscape pattern of hedge-banks, farmsteads, hamlets, villages and lanes.
  11. Historic coastal quays and fishing villages, coastal promontory sites for strategic defences and lighthouses.
  12. Deep combes and cliffs cloaked in ancient woodland along the Bideford Bay coast.
  13. Small pockets of remnant lowland coastal heathlands around Morte Point and Hartland Quay.
  14. Tourist-orientated settlements in sheltered seaside locations.
  15. Secluded, secretive and tranquil steep sided valleys that dissect the high downland and coastal plateau
  16. Dark night skies, particularly in the Hartland Peninsula
Special Qualities

All images are copyright of Neville Stanikk except  No 3 is Louise Cohen, No 12 is Peter Keene.

Management Plan 2019 – 2024

To fulfil the requirements of the CROW Act, local authorities must produce a Management Plan for the AONB at intervals of not less than five years. The purpose of the Management Plan is:

  • To provide a statutory plan that sets out the policies and objectives for the AONB
  • To inform public bodies how they can demonstrate compliance with their statutory duty to “have regard to” the AONB designation
  • To facilitate engagement with people and organisations with a stake in the AONB and to encourage involvement in working in partnership to deliver the objectives laid out in the Management Plan

This is not a Management Plan to be delivered by the National Landscape team alone, it is a Management Plan for the area and requires all to work in partnership to deliver the objectives. An annual delivery plan is produced and regular monitoring carried out to report on progress.

Staff Team

A team of one and a half core staff plus project staff work for the National Landscape:-

Additional staff are seconded through partner organisations such as North Devon+ and NDVS and externally funded

The team help to deliver the Management Plan by: making things happen, working with partners, advising on planning, obtaining external funding, developing projects, engaging communities and businesses, delivering results and outcomes to make a difference.