Since the phrase ‘valued landscapes’ first appeared in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, the industry has been faced with some difficult questions about what makes a valued landscape and how do we assess it? In an attempt to provide clarity on this issue, the Landscape Institute have published new guidance for assessing landscape value.
When carrying out any form of landscape assessment there are useful tools to help identify important areas or features within the landscape. This is often easiest when working within designated areas such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The NPPF is clear that designated landscapes should be protected. However, the difficulty comes in Paragraph 170, where it states that planning policies and decisions should protect and enhance ‘valued landscapes.’ No clarification or definition on what makes a valued landscape is offered.
Until recently, professionals carrying out landscape assessments have relied on direction from Box 5.1 in the third edition of Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA3). This lists eight factors that ‘can help in the identification of valued landscapes.’ Application of Box 5.1 is open to interpretation however, leaving room for subjective and sometimes contentious assessments. Further direction has come from planning appeals where landscape value has been tested over the years.
The Landscape Institute put together a working group, chaired by Rebecca Knight, to offer clarity on the subject. This resulted in Technical Guidance Note (TGN) 02-21 Assessing Landscape Value Outside National Designations, published in 2021. The new guidance expands on Box 5.1 from GLVIA3, offering an increased range of factors that can contribute to landscape value, as well as examples of indicators and data sources that can be used to assess each of these factors. As with any good guidance on landscape assessment, TGN 02-21 allows for flexible application that can be tailored to specific sites. This offers a robust approach with clearer direction for landscape professionals, as well as for those who review these judgements.
We are implementing the new guidance in a range of planning reports including Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments, Landscape Character Assessments, and in the Expert Witness services that we offer. Please contact us if you would like to know more.