Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is a tool for identifying the features that give a locality its particular ‘sense of place’ and can be used to categorize the landscape into areas of similar character. The LCA grew out of the European Landscape Convention (ELC), the first international convention to focus on the protection, management and planning of all landscapes in Europe. The UK and Ireland ratified the convention and it became binding on 1 March 2007. LCA is another tool in aid of sustainable development and biodiversity protection and is important for planning efforts.
The Irish Planning and Development Act, 2000, introduced requirements for preservation of the character of the landscape and made statutory provision for areas of special amenity and landscape conservation areas. The Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DoEHLG) issued draft Landscape and Landscape Assessment Guidelines, also in 2000, with the aims of heightening awareness of landscape issues, guiding planners, and indicating specific requirements for development planning and control. The Guidelines set out concepts of landscape character, value and sensitivity and how these should be assessed, and suggested that the landscape character areas should be the principal spatial framework for landscape policy.
In Northern Ireland, the current legislative basis for protecting landscapes is the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order (NI) 1985 (NCALO) under which landscape areas can be designated as either Areas of
Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or National Parks. When so designated, the Department of the Environment may take steps to manage them for the purposes of both conservation and recreation.
In Northern Ireland, a Landscape Character Assessment 2000 identified 130 distinct landscape character areas as fragile landscapes which are at risk from new development pressures. Following the 2000 Assessment, the government adopted Shared Horizons: Statement of Policy on Protected Landscapes in Northern Ireland (February 2003). The “shared” nature of the policy recognizes that much of the designated land is in private ownership and subject to management responsibilities with numerous agencies and local authorities.
Some further ideas to explore on Landscape Character Assessment:
Review the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) for your area, if there is one, and determine who prepared it and by what method. Evaluate the assessment and decide if it accurately portrays your landscape. If not, offer revisions of the LCA to the agency or authority that prepared it.
If there is no LCA for your area, prepare one and offer it to the appropriate agency or authority.
If a character assessment can be done for landscape, take the same principles and see if you can do a character assessment for a streetscape in your neighborhood or in the nearest town or village.
Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment www.ni-environment.gov.uk/landscape/country_landscape.htm
Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) in Ireland: Baseline Audit and Evaluation, prepared by Julie Martin Associates in Association with Alison Farmer Associates, for the An Chomhairle Oidhreachta /The Heritage Council (2007). Irish Heritage Council www.heritagecouncil.ie/planning/heritage-council-initiatives/national-evaluation-of-landscape-character-assessment-in-ireland/
Council of Europe, European Landscape Convention conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/html/176.htm
Landscape Alliance Ireland at www.landscape-forum-ireland.com/landscape-f-i-noticeboard.html
Natural England www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/landscape/default.aspx
Landscape Character Network at www.landscapecharacter.org.uk/