Over half of the District lies within Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB's), with parts of the Sussex Downs AONB and High Weald AONB falling in Mid Sussex. Designation of the Sussex Downs AONB was confirmed in 1966 followed by the High Weald AONB in 1983. Designation as an AONB gives formal recognition to the national importance of the landscape character of these areas. The primary purpose of designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty.
The High Weald is characterised by dispersed settlement; ancient routeways; an abundance of small ancient woods; gills and shaws; and small irregularly shaped and productive fields. They are all draped over a deeply incised and ridge landform of clays and sandstones, and are loosely related to socio-economic characteristics that have roots deep in history.
The Sussex Downs offers some of the most spectacular and evocative landscape in Southern England - sweeping chalklands where earth meets sky, precipitous scarp slopes, rigged sandstone uplands and intimate clay vales. It is a protected landscape of diversity and contrast.
Management of the AONB's
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 placed a statutory duty for Management Plans to be prepared for AONB's.The High Weald AONB Joint Advisory Committee of which Mid Sussex is a partner has prepared the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2004. The management plan sets out local authority policy for the AONB and will be used to assess how public bodies, statutory undertakers and holders of public office fulfil their duty to have regard for the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the High Weald. The Council adopted this plan in January 2004 and has regard to it when considering the suitability of proposals for development in the High Weald AONB.