Visual Resource Stewardship Conference

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 10-27-2019


The European Landscape Convention (ELC) is the treaty devoted to all aspects of European landscape. It provides the legislative context where landscape is encouraged to be considered as a valuable asset in its own right. It sets out requirements for the generation of landscape policy, quality objectives, protection, management and landscape planning.

Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is the process of identifying the character of the landscape, with the landscape as the environmental resource. It seeks to identify, describe and explain the unique combination of elements and features that make landscapes distinctive. The aim is that by establishing a robustly developed landscape character baseline, such a baseline can help us to understand our landscapes, to generate policy and assist those in informing judgements and making decisions concerning the potential changes to our landscape by proposed development.

The National Landscape Character Areas (NCAs), and those produced at a local government level, seek to provide this baseline. However, their value in the production of landscape and visual impact assessments associated with environmental impact assessments, which are then used to inform decisions, is less clear.

This paper explores some of the challenges presented to professional landscape architects in England undertaking landscape and visual impact assessments for development projects when they seek to use national and local character assessments in their work.

It provides a brief outline of the European Landscape Convention, Landscape Character Assessment, the National Character Areas, the Guidance for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment in the context of the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. It then uses the impact assessments from two recent projects undertaken by the Author to explain how useful, or otherwise, the policy and objectives set out in the ELC and NCAs are in the assessment of effects on landscape character.