The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty could become a national park, an MP has revealed. 

Chesham and Amersham MP Dame Cheryl Gillan has announced that she is considering applying for the status to protect the area from the increasing threat of housing development.

She also blamed pressure from the National Infrastructure Commission, HS2 and Government house-building targets for pushing her to consider the move.

The Chiltern Hills are currently classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), meaning that development should only be permitted on the land under “exceptional circumstances” and in the “public interest” according to the Countryside Act 1949 which governs AONBs.

However, housing development in the Chilterns is increasing year-on-year, while the controversial HS2 route is due to cut straight through the AONB.

If the Chilterns were to become a national park, it would join the likes of the Peak District, Dartmoor, Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons. 

Dame Cheryl was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Chesham and Amersham Conservative Association when she made the national park suggestion.

As a national park, the Chilterns would have its own independent planning authority, whereas as an AONB, it relies solely on the local authorities and planning inspectors for its protection.

The local authorities are simultaneously under pressure from the Government to rapidly build more houses = while the Chiltern District Council area is around 70 per cent AONB, they need to demonstrate that they will, jointly with South Bucks District Council, meet the target of 14,900 new dwellings by 2036.

In a debate on the Chilterns held by Dame Cheryl in the House of Commons in January, she drew attention to the “multiple and uncoordinated pressures on Buckinghamshire that were irrevocably impacting the Chilterns”.

She also pointed to the creeping housing development in spite of the 1949 Act guidelines, adding: “In the Chilterns AONB, an average of 138 units a year were approved between 2012 and 2015. This number almost trebled to 386 during the shorter period of 2015 to 2017. That is a worrying trend.”