Landscape Architects demystify Landscape and Visual Assessment
Traditional development may have slowed down in the face of the recession but the growing small scale renewables industry, buoyed by the financial incentives of the government’s FIT scheme (although under review), is keeping planning officers across the South West busy. Assessment of the likely effects of any form of development on the character and quality of the landscape, and the potential effects on views experienced by the regions’ permanent and seasonal populations is an issue to be addressed in most planning applications, for traditional developments as well as renewable energy projects. Where small scale wind turbines, generally those under 50m high, or domestic scale solar PV are concerned, the lack of guidance on the level of detail and methodology to be used frequently appears to result in inadequate assessments as both planners and applicants are unsure of what information they really need to provide.
In response to this situation, Landscape Architects at Cornwall Environmental Consultants (CEC Ltd), who offer a range of professional landscape assessment, design and ecology services, decided to host a series of seminars to share their knowledge and expertise. The seminars were aimed at providing planners and developers with a better understanding of what is required with the intention of promoting the use of Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) tailored to the needs of a project as a tool during the development process ultimately resulting in saving money and time potentially wasted by poor quality or badly scoped assessments. Supported by both the RTPI (SW) and Landscape Institute (SW) the sessions in Truro, Exeter and Taunton were attended by over 140 planners from the public and private sectors as far afield as Birmingham and Kent including representatives from all County, District and Borough Councils in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.
Each seminar was presented by one of CEC’s chartered landscape architects, explaining what exactly assessments of landscape and visual issues entail, the benefits in terms of project and financial risk in appointing a professionally qualified consultant to prepare them, and what they should consist of. A key point was the need to tailor the level of detail in the assessment to the scale and nature of the development being considered, something that is often questioned by private individuals and smaller developers proposing small scale renewables. In response CEC have devised a series of assessment packages, ranging from a brief desk based study to identify potential issues early on, covering visibility mapping and viewpoint assessments, through to the most involved assessments to accompany Environmental Statements for large and complex projects. These enable clients to be sure they’re including all the required information in their planning applications without
incurring more costs than necessary, and provide planning officers with a reliable indication that all the issues have been considered, hopefully resulting in higher quality, successful schemes with easier progress through the planning process and decreased risk of delays and failure.
Feedback from the delegates and supporting Institutes was extremely positive, many commenting on the extent of information covered,
that they felt more confident in advising developers effectively in the future, and requesting more sessions in the future. Lucy Wilson-Richards, CEC’s landscape architect leading the sessions said
“It was extremely rewarding to hear so many positive comments from fellow professionals. We hope the sessions will lead to an increased understanding of the subject and enable developments to progress smoothly for the benefit of present and future communities, without resulting in negative effects on the landscapes for which our region is famed.”
More information on the topic, along with contact details to discuss any issues in more depth can be found at www.cecenvironment.co.uk.
This entry was posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2011 at 10:49 am and is filed under News.