Planning & Development

Aerial view of Dedham

The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers an area of 90km2. The designation includes the lower reaches of the River Stour and extends eastwards as far as Cattawade Marshes.

The western boundary runs westwards between Bures and Wormingford while the northern and southern boundaries extend a few kilometres either side of the River Stour, at times also following the Rivers Brett and Box, that are tributaries of The Stour.

The AONB includes part of the administrative boundaries of Babergh District in Suffolk, a small part of Colchester Borough in the county of Essex. The Dedham Vale AONB is an attractive place to live, work and visit.

It is under increasing development pressure for new housing, economic development and transport schemes.

The need for new development must be carefully balanced against the requirement to conserve and enhance the Natural Beauty of the AONB. Any planning applications coming forward within the AONB must pay due regard, in accordance with Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, to the statutory purpose of AONB designation.

They must also satisfy the objectives of paragraphs 170(a) and 172 of the National Planning Policy Framework, relevant policies in Local Plans covering the AONB and objectives in the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Management Plan 2016-2021 (PDF).

Each of the Planning Authorities operating within the AONB prepare Local Plans to help guide development across their administrative areas, including within the AONB. As well as Local Plans we also comment on Waste and Mineral Plans, Supplementary Planning Documents and Neighbourhood Plans.

The AONB team comment on these various documents, on behalf of the AONB Partnership, to ensure that the conservation and enhancement of the area’s Natural Beauty is properly considered at the plan making stage.

Aerial view of Flatford

Position Statements

Aerial view of winding river

Guidance for Planning in the AONB

Pylons in a field

Bramford to Twinstead National Grid proposals

Bramford to Twinstead, National Grid proposals to strengthen electricity transmission network through the AONB and Stour Valley.

The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership responded to a non statutory consultation in May 2021 outlining its position to the proposals.

Download the AONB Partnership Response Bramford-Twinstead Non-Statutory Consultation May 2021 (PDF).

The AONB team also comments on individual planning applications which have the potential to positively or negatively impact on the primary purpose of the AONB (to conserve and enhance the area’s natural beauty).


The AONB team produced a Position Statement entitled Planning Consultations in the Dedham Vale AONB in 2018 to clarify the types of planning applications that we would like to be consulted on.Applications that frequently draw comments from the AONB team include:


  • All Nationally Significant Infrastructure scheme; and proposals:
  • Of sufficient scale, e.g. of a footprint, height, bulk and/or mass that could detract from the landscape qualities of the area
  • That could significantly reduce the tranquillity of the area, through increased levels of noise and light.
  • That could lead to a notable increase in disturbance, e.g. an increased number of visitors.
  • That could lead to a change in landscape character, urbanisation of the countryside or an inappropriate change of use.
  • That result in changes to public rights of way or areas of public access. 
  • That seek to establish a precedent, move away from Development Plan policy or exception sites.


For further information contact the AONB office.