Landscape effects are sometimes seen as an easy option for the refusal of planning permission as there is an inevitable degree of subjectivity in judgements concerning landscape and visual issues. Landscape evidence prepared by MBELC addresses issues of subjectivity through a thorough understanding of the site and the local landscape character followed by well-reasoned and evidenced judgments.
Work prepared by MBELC is written to be understood, it uses clear English, avoids unnecessary jargon and identifies what matters and why. We believe that decision-makers are more likely to be persuaded if they can understand the underlying assumptions and reasoning behind judgements.
Many recent decisions have turned on interpretations of what defines a ‘valued landscape’, as described in paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Our evidence demonstrates a thorough understanding of the factors inspectors and the Secretary of State have considered relevant.
Landscape AND Visual Impact Assessments
Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIA) or Landscape and Visual Appraisals (LVA), written for applications that do not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), are at the heart of landscape assessment. Assessments are prepared for all scales of development, as part of an EIA and as standalone LVAs. Assessments should be proportionate to the scale of the development and the sensitivity of the landscape. It is essential that a LVIA/LVA identifies the most important landscape issues, reaches clear conclusions about landscape impacts and the means by which they can be successfully mitigated.
Local Plan Assessments
Many sites that are being promoted through the local plan process, particularly for residential development, are greenfield sites with landscape issues. A well-focused landscape assessment helps to identify how a site can be most appropriately developed and is essential to inform a successful indicative masterplan.
Where landscape or Green Belt studies have been undertaken by a Local Planning Authority it is important that these are carefully analysed as the methodologies are widely varying.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
The NSIPs process includes a series of consultation phases in which all statutory consultees can be involved. Many of the consultees, district and county councils, boards of National Parks or AONBs, need expert landscape advice to help them understand the potential landscape impact. MBELC have been involved in reviewing several NSIPs applications including the application for a new Nuclear Power Station at Wylfa in Anglesey. Our role has included making sure that all possible mitigation has been considered by the promoters of the development and representing the consultees on landscape issues during the examination in public.
Planning Application Reviews
MBELC specialises in reviewing the landscape and visual aspects of planning applications for local planning authorities, other statutory consultees and local action groups. Reviews have included minerals and quarries, wind turbine developments, residential development and energy developments. Fundamental to the reviews is a clear identification of what are likely to be material considerations for the planning officer and the planning committee.
The presence of heritage assets in the landscape is often a key characteristic, making a substantial contribution to the local landscape character. MBELC have worked closely with cultural heritage professional to ensure that landscape issues are fully recognised in the assessment of the impact of development on the setting of heritage assets.