As urban developments increase in complexity and scale, the need for comprehensive Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIA) has grown exponentially. A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) can help you understand how your development could impact the local area.
Here, we’ll explain the main purposes of an LVIA, what it does and why it is important. We’ll also look at the different types of reports available and how The Landscape Architect can help you with your landscape projects.
What is Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA)?
Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) is a process used to assess the impact of proposed developments on their surrounding landscape, including character, vegetation, landform, views and visual amenity. It is an important part of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), ensuring that the potential effects of development are assessed adequately.
LVIA looks at both the direct impacts on a site as well as any indirect effects that might arise from changes in its orientation or size, which could affect nearby areas. The scope of an LVIA typically includes a character assessment of the local area, photo viewpoints mapping out key views, visualisations of how a proposal would look with respect to current baseline conditions, cumulative assessments if more than one development area is being proposed or built in an area, and consideration of the likely impacts on human activities.
It may also involve engagement with the Local Planning Authority to ensure that any recommendations are taken into account before a planning application is submitted. In addition, LVIA can inform the production of an Environmental Statement (ES) which sets out the predicted landscape and visual effects of a proposal and potential mitigation measures to address them.
The LVIA process typically comprises five distinct stages: Desk-based assessment, field survey/assessment, modelling/simulation, Mitigation & Enhancement and appraisal.
- Desk Based Assessment – A desk-based analysis will provide contextual information from which a range of potential effects can be identified. This includes baseline data on geology, soils, land use and land cover, boundary treatments and vegetation; ecology; hydrology; heritage (buildings and sites); character areas; microclimate, noise, topography and planning policy.
- Analysis – The field survey assesses existing conditions and records baseline data for later comparison with proposed changes. It involves analysing the data gathered in order to gain a better understanding of both the landscape character and visual amenities of the area. Landscape design elements such as landforms, boundary treatments and vegetation are identified and assessed for their contribution to character and protection in policy.
- Prediction – Modelling/simulation is used to assess the visibility of built elements, landform features and vegetation, as well as to predict likely impacts on landscape character.
- Mitigation & Enhancement – Where adverse effects have been identified through assessment, this stage requires measures for mitigating or enhancing those effects. These could include planting or boundary treatments, for example.
- Reporting –The final LVIA report presents the findings of the assessment and appraisal stages, along with any recommendations for mitigating and enhancing adverse effects. This can provide key information to inform EIA screening and scoping stages, as well as site selection and consideration of alternatives. It includes plans, a zone of theoretical visibility maps, photographs of the existing landscape, and potentially also photomontages or accurate visual representations of the proposed development.