The European Landscape Convention (ELC)

Durham Heritage Coast, runner up in 2011 Council of Europe Landscape Awards. © Mike Smith

The ELC is the first international treaty dedicated to the protection, management and planning of all landscapes in Europe.

Signed by the UK government in 2006 and introduced in March 2007, the ELC provides a people-centred and forward-looking way to reconcile management of the environment with the social and economic challenges of the future, and aims to help people reconnect with place.

What the ELC covers: a different approach for different landscapes

The ELC cover land and water (inland and seas), and natural, rural, urban and peri-urban landscapes. Significantly, it includes every-day or degraded landscapes as well as those that might be considered outstanding.

Every landscape forms the setting for the lives of local people, and the quality of those landscapes can affect everyone’s lives. The ELC does not confine itself to cultural or man-made landscape elements alone, but to all elements and the way they interact.

The ELC does not advocate the same measures and policies for all landscapes. Instead it encourages approaches that are adaptable to particular landscape types and which respond to their unique characteristics.

Articles of the ELC

The ELC contains 18 articles which, collectively, promote landscape protection, management and planning and organising European cooperation on landscape issues.

Article 1 defines the terms used in the ELC. These include:

  • “Landscape” – an area perceived by people whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors.
  • “Landscape policy” – an expression by the competent public authorities of general principles, strategies and guidelines that permit the taking of specific measures aimed at the protection, management and planning of landscapes.
  • “Landscape protection” – actions to conserve and maintain the significant or characteristic features of a landscape, justified by its heritage value derived from its natural configuration and/or from human activity.
  • “Landscape management” – action, from a perspective of sustainable development, to ensure the regular upkeep of a landscape, so as to guide and harmonise changes which are brought about by social, economic and environmental processes.
  • “Landscape planning” – strong forward-looking action to enhance, restore or create landscapes.

ELC Articles 5 and 6

Articles 5 and 6 commit signatory states to a number of actions which are designed to help ensure compliance with the overarching aims of the ELC. These include the need to recognise landscapes in law, to establish policies aimed at landscape planning, protection and management and the integration of landscape into other policy areas.

The LI fully supports the spirit and intent of the ELC. While it is not a directive of the European Union – rather it is a Convention of the Council of Europe – the LI regularly highlights to government the continued need to ensure compliance with the ELC.

More detailed information on the articles can be found on the ELC website.

Will Brexit affect the status of the ELC?

‘Brexit’ refers to the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). The ELC is a convention of the Council of Europe, not the EU. Therefore, Brexit does not affect the status of this convention, and as of 31 January 2020, the UK remains a signatory.

For key documents and resources on Brexit, and an analysis of potential impacts for LI members, visit the Brexit resources section in the LI members’ area.