Visual Representation is a presentation technique that is increasingly requested by planning.  In September 2019 the Landscape Institute published Technical Guidance Note (06/19) for the ‘Visual Representation of Development Proposals’.  After six months of applying the guidance, this article reflects the changes that this guidance has brought and answers some frequently asked questions.

What are the new guidelines?

The guidance aims to help those involved in the planning and development process to select types of visualisations which are most appropriate to the circumstances in which they will be used.  It provides advice as to appropriate techniques to capture site photography and produce suitable visualisations. The guidance supersedes previous advice and provides supplementary guidelines to The Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment 3rd edition (GLVIA3).

What’s changed?

The Technical Guidance Note (06/19) aims to standardise the methodologies for producing different technical visualisations.  For many landscape practices, including ourselves, the methodologies are similar or the same as previously applied and are no more or less onerous.  It does, however mean that the industry has become more aligned in terms of the methodologies used to create different visualisations and this standardisation is helpful in preparing (and demonstrating preparation of) robust output in which planning authorities can trust. One of the key differences to note is that the new guidance defines four visualisation ‘types’.  Again, this doesn’t introduce anything new in terms of output, but simply standardises and rationalises the terminology used across the industry.  The four visualisation types proposed by the guidance comprise the following (from least to most sophisticated, in terms of equipment, processing and presentation):
  • Type 1 – Annotated viewpoint photographs;
  • Type 2 – 3D wireline / model;
  • Type 3 – photomontage / photowire; and
  • Type 4 – photomontage / photowire (survey / scale verifiable).

Which type of visualisation is suitable for my project?

Where requested to be provided by planning authorities as part of planning applications, the type of visual representation should be reasonable and proportionate in relation to its intended purpose.  The factors that will determine the appropriate Visualisation Type include:
  • the intended use;
  • the nature of the proposed development;
  • the sensitivity of the context; and
  • the likely visual effects of the proposed development.
Table 1 on Page 9 of the guidelines provides a useful guide for selecting what visualisation type should be used. Should the visual representation be used to inform a planning application or evidence submitted to Public Inquiry, it is important to consult and agree the type with the regulatory authority which may have its own guidelines to which the visualisations must adhere.  

What is the difference between the visual representation types?

Below are some examples of each Visualisation Type.  A brief description of each visualisation and their typical application is also provided.  Please click on the arrows to scroll through the images.
Example of Type 1 – Annotated viewpoint photograph Type 1 visualisations are often used in Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIAs) and Landscape and Visual Appraisals (LVAs). The photographs are taken using a Full Frame Sensor camera with 50 mm lens, or cropped frame sensor camera with 35 mm or 28 mm fixed lens.  The photographs are annotated to show the extent or position of the site and other features and are typically presented with a single frame on an A3 sheet.
 Example of Type 2 – 3D wireline / model Type 2 visualisations are 3D generated models or wireframes.  These visualisations have been used to convey an impression of a development proposal.  They need have no specific field of view or location reference, but should have a realistic sense of perspective. Type 2 visualisations can also be ‘dynamic’ such as virtual reality walk-throughs.  This type of visualisation is often used for promotional purposes.
Example of Type 3 – photomontage / photowire Type 3 visualisations are photomontages or photowires which are used to convey a design, form and context to a reasonable degree of accuracy, but do not need to be verifiable*.  Imagery will typically be presented as two related sheets: Baseline photograph and photomontage, presented at the same size to allow direct comparison.  A Type 3 visualisation is also accompanied by a technical methodology.
Example of Type 4 – photomontage / photowire survey / scale verifiable Type 4 visualisations represent the highest level of accuracy and verifiability, for situations when the visualisations are likely to be scrutinised.  The visualisations are fully rendered and verified* and are used to accompany planning applications and/or for evidence submitted to Public Inquiry.   Each image is accompanied by technical information including (but not limited to) the ground level elevation, camera/viewer height, focal length and recommended viewing distance.  A Type 4 visualisation is also accompanied by a technical methodology.
* Verifiable meaning the photographic process and image scaling is capable of being verified to agreed standards by reference to the original photograph with metadata.  Precise survey of features and viewpoint / camera locations may be included where warranted. You can read our previous blog ‘Visualisation – A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, to find out more on visualisations and other presentation techniques we offer. If you have any queries on visual representation of development proposals, please do speak with a member of our graphics or landscape team who will be pleased to advise. Contact us on 0117 9230455 or email