Shropshire’s landscape forms an integral part of the county’s economy, not only because of the farming industries it sustains but also because of the residents, tourists and investors it attracts. The importance of the County’s landscape is recognised as being part of the area’s special appeal, with the Shropshire Hills formally designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Future change needs to be managed sustainably and in a way that's sympathetic to the landscape, allowing it to be maintained for future generations to enjoy.
This study provides the evidence-based technical assessment to help ensure that locations identified for new development meet these requirements. Using a systemic assessment framework, it examines the sensitivity of the landscape and identifies those areas which can potentially accommodate different thresholds of development without impacting key landscape and visual character and qualities.
This is one of the first county-wide sensitivity studies to undertake separate landscape and visual assessments. There is currently no prescribed method for separately assessing visual sensitivity at a strategic scale and published assessments typically treat visual sensitivity as a subset of landscape sensitivity. The criteria used in the study is one of the examples referenced in the new Natural England Guidance - An approach to landscape sensitivity assessment – to inform spatial planning and land management. Published in July 2019, this guidance replaces Topic Paper 6: Techniques and Criteria for Judging Capacity and Sensitivity (Scottish Natural Heritage and The Countryside Agency, 2004). The study forms an integral part of the Local Plan site allocation process and provides a robust and transparent foundation for assessing the impact of future development proposals on landscape character and visual amenity across the county.
The assessment is one of the evidence based supporting documents for the Shropshire Local Development Framework (LDF). The premise of the assessment, which is in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, is that allocations of land for development should prefer land of lower environmental value. This supports several environmental and sustainability policies.
The innovation in this assessment is threefold in that it:
- is one of the first regional studies to deliver a robust and consistent assessment of visual amenity sensitivity separately from landscape character sensitivity.
- adopts the approach that landscape value should be addressed as part of the assessment of landscape sensitivity, rather than separately as recommended in Topic Paper 6.
- Develops the indicators of landscape and visual value outlined in Paragraphs 5.19 to 5.32 and Box 5.1 of GLVIA3 into a series of criteria to help define the value of each area. This underpins the ‘all landscapes matter’ approach advocated by the European Landscape Convention.
- is highly regarded and being actively used by the client group in strategic planning and the determination of planning applications.
- demonstrates how landscape professionals can help resolve strategic land use and planning questions, and contribute to resolving climate change issues.
- builds on guidance in GLVIA3 to develop a tailored approach to sensitivity assessment. This can be readily adapted to different landscapes and developments.
- involved the client group in every step of the methodology and decision making process in a spirit of genuine collaboration.
- considers the full range of aesthetic, cultural and experiential influences on the landscapes with reference to susceptibility and value criteria.
Shropshire Landscape and Visual Sensitivity Assessment
The brief was to assess the sensitivity of land around 66 settlements to housing and employment development and identify effective mitigation guidance as appropriate. The aim of the study was to provide an evidence base and inform the selection of suitable sites for allocation in Shropshire’s Local Plan Review. It was also to provide a sound basis for decision making in the determination of planning applications, based on principles of sustainability. A key requirement of the brief was that the study should reflect the latest guidance presented in Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment Third Edition (GLVIA3). The approach advocated in GLVIA3 is based on the commonly adopted premise that development should be more readily accepted in the least sensitive areas and should avoid areas that are highly valued for their scenic, nature conservation, historic, recreational and perceptual qualities such as tranquillity and remoteness. This particularly includes those areas safeguarded by international or national designations and those where the cumulative effects of existing and consented schemes limit further development. Also in accordance with GLVIA3, the brief required separate assessments of landscape character and visual amenity. This was in response to the recognition that the visual sensitivity of an area will not necessarily be the same as its landscape sensitivity. It is an approach which is more likely to stand up to scrutiny if challenged at inquiry. The assessment of visual sensitivity focusses on the visual amenity aspects of the landscape, rather than on specific effects on individual receptors as these would typically be assessed as part of landscape and visual impact assessment.
Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019
Client: Shropshire Council Landscape Planner: Gillespies Shropshire Council Team: Joy Tetshill (Senior Policy Officer) Gillespies' Team: Sarah Gibson (Partner) Rebecca Greatrix (Associate Partner) Marianne Dobson (Senior Landscape Architect) Jessica Ginty (Assistant Landscape Architect)
Local planning authority or government body
Total cost of fees approximately £50,000