MUCH of Alice Holt Forest and Dockenfield, as well as small pockets of Haslemere and Hindhead, could soon be adopted into the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

As part of the AONB’s first boundary review since its adoption in 1958, the Surrey Hills AONB board proposes to extend the Surrey Hills area by almost 82.5 km² – an additional 11 per cent.

The proposal would afford extension areas, including those listed above and identified in the adjacent images, additional protection from inappropriate development.

It will be considered imminently by the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, coming after fellow AONB, Suffolk Coast & Heaths, received approval to extend its current boundary.

The Surrey Hills, which was only the second UK landscape to be designated an AONB, is next in line for a boundary extension.

In 2011 Natural England’s Board commissioned a study to review the evidence for a boundary review.

Significant parts of the adjacent countryside outside the Surrey Hills AONB had been designated at a local county level as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV).

However, it was felt by the Surrey Hills board that the AGLV areas have sufficient natural beauty to qualify for inclusion in the AONB.

The proposed extension would encompass areas of Downs, Wealden Greensand and Low Weald within and around the locally-designated AGLVs.

The extension has been welcomed by CPRE The Countryside Charity, whose Surrey director Andy Smith said: “CPRE has long supported the extension of the Surrey Hills AONB boundary to incorporate within the AONB many of the adjacent Areas of Great Landscape Value – and beyond – so we are delighted to hear the long-awaited AONB boundary review can now go ahead.

“The certainty of protection that the Surrey Hills AONB currently provides should be extended to the immediately adjacent countryside.”

Heather Kerswell, chair of the Surrey Hills AONB board, added: “The Surrey Hills were designated as worthy of national protection in 1958 but the boundary drawn was incredibly tight, difficult to understand or to manage.

“Many beautiful areas were inexplicably excluded. This makes the Surrey Hills very vulnerable. We want to see the boundaries redrawn to include these beautiful areas and give them the protection they deserve.

When Natural England decides to extend the Surrey Hills AONB boundary, a Variation Order will be submitted to the secretary of state for a final decision, following a period of consultation.