Rebecca Knight, Chair of the GLVIA Panel of the Landscape Institute, discusses the launch of Volume 11 of the IEMA IA Outlook Journal about Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, with articles from WSP, LUC, The Environment Partnership, Stephenson Halliday, Pegasus Group and The Landmark Practice. Rebecca has acted as Guest Editor for this edition, supported by the GLVIA Panel: Sarah Gibson, Laura Campbell, Melanie Croll and Rufus Howard.

In preparing for this Outlook Journal, I trawled the IEMA archive for articles on Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) and came across a piece written (pre-GLVIA3) by Naushad Tahsildar and John Flannery from Environmental Resources Management about the value of LVIA. Naushad and John’s article noted that “In the absence of international LVIA guidelines, the opportunity to carry out LVIAs in international EIAs/ESIAs is being missed and often not carried out even on the most significant, large scale projects” and “In not explicitly carrying out LVIAs in EIAs/ESIAs, there is the potential that important aspects of the landscape and visual amenity will be overlooked, with the risk that impacts/mitigation are not taken into account in decision making and consenting”. This international perspective should remind us of the value of LVIA, and how fortunate we are in the UK to have a framework within which to assess landscape and visual impact.

The first edition of the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA1) was published in 1995, jointly by the Landscape Institute and the (then) Institute of Environmental Assessment. The ‘brown book’, as it was called, was my first introduction to LVIA. It was written in response to the serious erosion of the character and quality of our urban and rural landscapes that occurred in the latter part of the 20th century, and recognised a need to safeguard the quality of the environment for future generations.

The first edition of GLVIA recognised that landscape and visual impact assessment relies less upon measurement, and more upon experience and judgement, than some other EIA topics. For this reason the guidelines aimed to present a structured and consistent approach to the treatment of landscape and visual issues. GLVIA1 recommended charts and tables as “probably the best way of making complex information more accessible to consultees and the public” (Paragraph 3.80, GLVIA1) and introduced a simple ‘matrix’ for assessing significance thresholds which set sensitivity on one axis and magnitude on the other.

The second edition of GLVIA (GLVIA2) was published by the Landscape Institute and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) in 2002, with the aim of presenting a ‘non-specific’ methodology for undertaking assessments. Instead, it put the onus on the landscape professional carrying out the assessment to ensure the approach and methodology adopted was appropriate. The guidance also included a number of case studies to provide examples of (then) current practice. GLVIA2 warned against reliance on matrices, pointing out that the relationship between the two axes of a matrix (sensitivity and magnitude) is not linear.

GLVIA3 was published in 2013, after the UK Government’s ratification of the European Landscape Convention. Its aim was to present “an authoritative statement of the principles of assessment” (albeit still a framework rather than a specific ‘recipe’). It provided more detailed advice on the process of assessing the landscape and visual effects of developments and their significance, expanding on the components that make up sensitivity and magnitude. It also aimed to be clearer on the use of terminology and included a new expanded chapter on cumulative effects.

Since the publication of GLVIA3, other related guidance has been published by the Landscape Institute including: Technical Guidance Note (TGN) 02/19 on Residential Visual Amenity Assessment; TGN 06/19 on the Visual Representation of Development Proposals; TGN 01/20 on Reviewing Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIAs) and Landscape and Visual Appraisals (LVAs); and TGN 02/21 on Assessing Landscape Value Outside National Designations. The Institute has also published a ‘FAQ’ on GLVIA3 as Technical Information Note 01/21. The landscape profession will continue to develop tools and techniques, and the articles in this journal provide a snapshot of some of the current thinking amongst the profession.

The first article, by Danielle Reeves, considers an approach to meaningful mitigation in a climate emergency with specific reference to trees. The second article, by Paul Macrae and Edward White, explores the relationship between planning policy and LVIA. The third and fourth articles consider the role of judgements in LVIA: in the third Ian Grimshaw and Louise Fitzgerald urge us to provide evidence to support professional judgement, and in the fourth Mary Fisher challenges us to consider whether LVIAs truly reflect the views of communities in which developments are planned. The fifth article is from IEMA’s Quality Mark archive and was written by Lauren Davis, then of Pegasus Group. This article contemplated whether Townscape and Visual Impact Assessment is a sub-set of LVIA or a separate process requiring different skills, and is still relevant today. The sixth article by Lucy Foley considers the specific needs of assessing effects at night. Finally, Louise Fitzgerald considers options for the visual communication of potential effects, including the value of emerging digital technologies.

Download a copy of the Outlook Journal here.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributors, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Exclusive opportunity:

Are you interested in developing and improving landscape visual impact assessment (LVIA)? Come and join the Landscape Institute GLVIA Panel! The Panel reports to the LI’s technical committee and meets four times a year. They contribute to the development of the LI’s guidance and training courses as well as assisting the LI team in answering member queries on the subject.

The LI also has a dedicated LVIA forum on LI Connect (joining that brand-new networking platform is absolutely free and easy for both members and non-members).

We are looking for LI/IEMA members with expertise in LVIA. If you are interested please send a CV and a personal statement about how you can contribute to the Panel’s work to technical@landscapeinstitute.org by the 30th November 2021.

Photo of Rebecca Knight 1 square BW
Rebecca Knight

Rebecca is a Chartered Landscape Architect with a specialist interest in landscape and visual impact assessment (including design of mitigation) and landscape character assessment and its applications (including landscape sensitivity studies). Rebecca also delivers training and provides expert witness services for public inquiries. A Director of Landscape Planning at LUC with 25 years’ experience, she is also author of the LVIA Chapter for 3rd and 4th Editions of ‘Methods of Environmental Impact Assessment’ by Morris and Therivel, published by Routledge. Rebecca sits on the Landscape Institute’s Technical Committee and is the new Chair of the ‘GLVIA Panel’ which discusses issues relating to LVIA and, when necessary, publishes clarifications relating to the guidelines.