Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment

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.
View over Ashton-under-Hill from Cotswolds AONB

Landscape and Visual Appraisal (LVA) Explained

Landscape and Visual Appraisal (LVA) is a planning tool used to assess current landscape characteristics in order to inform decisions on future developments. It typically involves an analysis of land use, vegetation type, views, access points and existing infrastructure in order to understand the existing character of the area. An LVA much alike an LVIA also looks at potential changes that any proposed development may have on the surrounding landscape without taking into account any mitigating measures or cumulative effects from adjoining developments or land uses.

View of Landscape with cows in field and Qauntock Hills

How Does LVIA Differ From Landscape And Visual Appraisal?

Landscape and Visual Appraisal is a process whereby existing landscape characteristics are recorded in order to inform decisions on future development proposals. It typically involves the mapping of land uses, vegetation types, views, and access points to enable an understanding of the existing landscape character. An LVIA goes further than this by taking into account the potential impacts that any proposed development may have on the physical characteristics and visual quality of the landscape in question. An LVIA will assess the level of impact of a proposed development. An LVA on the other hand will be less detailed and whilst it will set out the character and the landscape visual effects of a development it will not go as far as attributing a level of significance the proposed development will have on surrounding receptors (e.g. Moderate Adverse).

Different Types of Landscaping Reports Available

In addition to LVIAs and LVAs, there are several other types of landscaping reports which may be used to inform decision-making on proposed developments. These include Landscape Character Assessments (LCA) and Townscape Character Assessments (TCA).

All these reports are used to evaluate the impact of development on existing landscapes and townscapes. LVIAs/LVAs focus mainly on visual aspects. In contrast, a TCA looks at the particular characteristics of a built-up environment, such as its buildings, public spaces and the relationship between them.

Final Thought! Harnessing Our Expertise to Design Your Landscape Projects.

At The Landscape Architect, we believe that all projects should be assessed using the correct level of report to assist in assessing your project. Our expert team is knowledgeable about landscape design & architecture, visibility studies & analyses, landscape character assessment & mapping, planting plans & schemes and ecological mitigation & enhancement. We have the experience and expertise to help you make informed decisions about your projects and turn them into a reality.

We are able to provide a comprehensive range of services associated with Landscape Planning and Visual Impact Assessments (LVIA). Our LVIA process can be utilised in Environmental Statements or as standalone reports submitted for planning applications. This includes residential developments, transport infrastructure improvements, commercial schemes, leisure facilities, schools and healthcare facilities.

We also help to identify any design solutions that may be employed to mitigate or enhance the effects identified through assessment and appraisal processes which can provide important information to inform EIA screening and scoping stages as well as site selection and consideration of alternatives within a Zone of Theoretical Visibility.

Contact us today to discuss how our expertise can help you with your landscape projects. We look forward to hearing from you!

View of sheep in field in Daventry