Landscape Assessment

DWA is regularly involved in landscape assessment in the form of Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIA) looking at all potential impacts a proposed development would have upon the landscape and surrounding area. The Practice has carried out hundreds of studies and has developed a robust methodology based on the GLVIA Guidelines (3rd). These studies involve the detailed analysis of the landscape character, conservation status, visual impact, and environmental and planning policies. This has led to involvement in Local Plan Inquiries over the years.

Desk top studies are carried out to research for any designations that a site may have which will affect the proposed development, or may be affected by it.  Cultural or natural heritage designations such as Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, Designed Landscape or Gardens, Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSI), Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) etc. as identified within a study radius and potential impacts upon them assessed.  This radius varies dependant on the nature of the development and the impact which is likely to occur.  This radius is established during a scoping exercise.

4 Context

Relevant Planning policies are studied in order to establish the context into which proposals would be introduced.  By assessing the current landscape related planning context an assessment can be made on any impacts that may occur, or potential objections which may arise with planning authorities, and alternative or mitigated recommendations made for the project.

The character of the landscape is analysed so that a definitive assessment can be made upon impacts upon the immediate and wider landscape context.  There are a series of Landscape Character Assessments which cover all of Scotland which define the nature and general characteristics of the Scottish landscape.  These are the widely-accepted baseline reference studies and allow an assessment of any impacts upon the landscape character to be made. A detailed assessment of the proposed site follows this, identifying any key features such as tree cover, water courses, buildings etc.

Development impacts can be either physical or visual and a detailed baseline study will identify any which lie within the defined study radius. They can also be transitory, as during a construction period, or permanent.  They can also be varied in the positivity or negatively or in the degree of change which would result.  These aspects are assessed and set out in the LVIA report. From this a set of development constraints can be established and finally a set of recommendations put forth.

All of the above study is supported through illustrations, on site study and often technical methods such as the use of computer ground modelling to establish Zones of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) using Key Terra-Firma software.  Where required we also often produce photographic supporting information and visualisations using both wireframe modelling and more recently augmented reality software.  This allows real-time visualisations to be created in the field using VenturAR software through a computer-generated model superimposed directly onto the landscape and viewed via the camera on an iPAD and its in-built positioning capabilities.  This means viewers can look directly at the development in the landscape relative to the topography and at a scale which is accurate and realistic.

A landscape statement can be carried out if a full LVIA is not required.  This involves a less in-depth study of the elements described above but allows an overview of the potential impacts and constraints upon a development which may allow decisions to be made relating to feasibility and approaches to design.