Sandstone Ridge Raw Head View, P DEFRA, C Sandstone Ridge Trust
View from the ridge's highest point at Raw Head c. Sandstone Ridge Trust

Cheshire Sandstone Ridge tipped for natural beauty protection

Julia Hatmaker

Natural England has proposed naming it an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which would boost preservation efforts across the entire 89 square mile ridge.

Sandstone Ridge runs from Malpas to Frodsham and includes parts of Helsby, Kelsall, Winsford and Tarporley.

The organization nominated Sandstone Ridge to become an AONB on 24 June. The designation process will likely take several years, according to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Local stakeholders will be involved throughout what the department calls a “collaborative process.”

If Sandstone Ridge is named an AONB, development will become more difficult in the area. Any scheme will have to garner approval from either the local authority or the Secretary of State. They must also not have a significant impact on the landscape and its beauty. Should it not be possible to avoid affecting the site, developers will have to show they have a mitigation strategy to reduce the negative effects. This includes projects to add utility services and roads.

Local authorities can send applications to Natural England to consult on as well. Natural England will have the authority to object to any proposal it does not feel does enough to mitigate environmental harm.

Sandstone Ridge View, P DEFRA, C Sandstone Ridge Trust

The process to designate the ridge as an Area of Outstanding Beauty will take several years c. Sandstone Ridge Trust

Sandstone Ridge features eight distinctive landscape types, a medieval royal hunting forest, four castles and 90 national or local wildlife sites. More than one million people visit the ridge every year, according to the Sandstone Ridge Trust. It is roughly 70% farmland, which is worked on by more than 400 farmers.

“This is a watershed moment in seeking to ‘Conserve, Connect and Inspire’ current and future generations in understanding and caring for this unique landscape and its diverse habitats,” said Andrew Hull, chair of the Sandstone Ridge Trust, about the nomination.

Yorkshire Wolds is also nominated for AONB status.

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Slightly torn, this place is absolutely stunning and well worthy of AONB status, but you could see some shameless NIMBYism on the back of this. Nobody seems to have joined this up with the fact that the area also has a well positioned bid for a new rail station at Beeston Castle & Tarporley, which will be just up the line from HS2 in Crewe.

By Rich X