Terminology Overload

There are a number of terms to describe the landscape and visual information that is needed to support the grant of planning permissions.

In addition to the industry and professional standard ‘Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments’ (LVIAs) or ‘Appraisals’ (LVAs), we have recently been asked to prepare “informal LVIAs”, “landscape statements”, and “landscape and visibility assessments”.  Such terms can be confusing – even for us, the experts.

Understanding the terminology is fundamental to securing the right work for the job.  The last thing needed when bringing forward costly development is to find that the work which has been prepared, and paid for, fails to deliver the appropriate level of information for the planning authority to determine the planning application. The brief notes below are framed to help to clear the fog of confusion.

Making certain that the report is fit for purpose

Avoiding inadequate and abortive work requires understanding of what is needed, and what can be delivered.  In terms of what is needed, the LPA normally needs sufficient information to firstly, identify and assess the likely effects of a proposed development on the surrounding landscape and visual amenity, and secondly be confident that the “scale of investigation” that is undertaken is “appropriate and proportional” to the particular site and scheme (paragraph 1.17, Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Third Edition, 2013).  Only then can it reach an informed conclusion on the effect of the application scheme.

From this it is clear that early consultation between the Council and the applicant’s Landscape Architect is critical to directing what is assessed, and the detail of the assessment or appraisal that is prepared.

What type of study can and should be delivered?

A Landscape Impact Assessment considers changes to individual landscape elements or features, and landscape character and designations, whilst a Visual Impact Assessment considers changes to views and visual amenity.  More often than not both elements of study are required, forming a LVIA or LVA, unless there is a particular issue which needs to be addressed, which would require a Landscape or Visual Impact Appraisal.

LVIAs can be carried out formally as part of an Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), or informally as a standalone Assessment or Appraisal (for non EIA applications).  The fundamental difference is that an appraisal is more flexible and requires no assessment of significance effects, and the assessment of resultant effects is considered by a Chartered Landscape Architect.  For both LVIAs and LVAs, landscape experts should ideally be involved in initial pre application discussion, give advice on site selection and consideration of alternatives, on EIA screening, and on the emerging masterplan.  All of these stages should contribute to understanding of development effects, and therefore of the most appropriate and cost effective mitigation strategies.

Other purposes

Different scales of reporting are required at different stages in the planning process, from the strategic to the site level.  Outside Landmark’s experience of preparing ‘standard’ LVIAs to inform site development, we have recently prepared strategic landscape and visual reports to inform selection of infrastructure options, others to support residential allocations through the Local Plan process, and others to inform emerging masterplans.  We have also prepared tailored Landscape Character Appraisal reports which focus on the impacts of specific developments on settlement character or the setting of a designated landscape.

So, if you are the local authority case officer on whose desk a landscape report lands, or are the applicant or appellant asked to prepare landscape evidence to support a planning application, be clear on what is needed.

Hopefully this brief summary helps to explain some of the differences between studies, but if you are any doubt please contact us on 0117 9230455 or email: Enquiries@thelandmarkpractice.com  and we will guide you through the fog!