When an intervention is proposed that is likely to affect landscape assets or features in the environment a landscape assessment should be carried out.
In all cases the purpose of a landscape assessment is to assess the effects of change. However, the form of the assessment to be undertaken will depend on the scale and type of the intervention and in the case of development, the associated form that the planning application may take. Unless there are specific regulatory requirements, the principle of proportionality should apply.
Should the scale and type of change be considered as EIA development, then the assessment will need to form part of a formal Environmental Statement. This accompanies the planning application and is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the EIA Regulations. In this case the assessment should take the form of a formal Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA). Guidance for this has been developed by the Landscape Institute and IEMA in the form of GLVIA3 and Technical Guidance Note 1-20:Reviewing LVIAs and LVAsl
If the intervention is not considered to be EIA development, some form of assessment may still be required if it has the potential to affect the landscape. This would form a landscape and visual appraisal of the development proposals. When undertaking such an appraisal practitioners typically use GLVIA3, in order to follow a logical process (Chapter 1 p4 GLVIA 3rd Edition). The format of such an appraisal may not need to satisfy the formal requirements of an EIA, however, it should as a minimum set out any effects on the landscape and views, and proposed mitigation in a rational way so that this can be fully considered through the planning process.
Assessments or Appraisals may be carried out for developments proposed in rural or urban areas and within townscapes or seascapes. In all cases reference is made to the appropriate type of character assessment 1
The information summarises that which is already set out in current guidance, in particular:
Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment 3rd Edition (or ‘GLVIA3’) published in 2013 by the Landscape Institute / Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. GLVIA3 makes reference to other assessment guidance and techniques, which are included below.
Defining the scope of the assessment or appraisal with the competent authority (and / or other commissioning body) is a vital part of the process, Scoping should ‘… mark the beginning of an iterative dialogue. Early identification of particular concerns can lead to the resolution of issues before an application is submitted.’ (GLVIA3 para. 3.8).
In all cases, the approach to, and scope of, the assessment / appraisal should be ‘proportional to the scale and nature of the proposed development’ (GLVIA3 para. 6.2).
Techniques and guidance evolve over time, and it is important to check that the most up-to-date sources of reference are being used.
Other types of assessment e.g. landscape character assessment, landscape sensitivity or capacity assessments, or environmental colour assessments would normally be carried out to create an evidence base for plan making in accordance with National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) para 158: Using a proportionate evidence base. This evidence base may also be used to provide a baseline for any assessment or appraisal supporting a planning application: Establishing the landscape baseline para 5.3 p70.
Where appropriate, landscape character assessments should be prepared to complement Natural England’s National Character Area profiles: National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG) Natural Environment – Landscape 2.
It is worth adding that should an intervention have an effect on the setting of heritage assets (recognising that setting is a different concept from landscape or visual) then it will be necessary to refer to the specific guidance available from Historic England.
1 See for example Natural England (2012), An Approach to Seascape Character Assessment, Natural England Commissioned Report NECR 105, October 2012.
2 NE documents can be found on the gov.uk website https://www.gov.uk/landscape-andseascape-character-assessments