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Valued landscapes: new draft guidance supported by SLR

Jeremy Smith Director
Jeremy Smith

Jeremy has acted as an expert witness on landscape and visual matters at over 40 inquiries and hearings. He has often been asked to assess and design large-scale developments, particularly those in sensitive locations such as national landscape designations and Green Belt. He has worked on large scale mineral and waste projects, power projects and residential and commercial developments, and has also drafted guidance for the Environment Agency and Local Authorities. Jeremy has also carried out landscape projects in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Much needed draft guidance has just been shared by the Landscape Institute providing information to professionals who need to make judgments about the value of a landscape.

Valued landscapes have long been one of the most common reasons for refusal for all types of development in the UK, but particularly residential – since the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was introduced in 2012. The fact is the NPPF introduced the term 'valued landscapes', but never defined it, and the later edition of the NPPF did not clarify the term.

To make matters worse, the Guidelines on Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA3), which includes guidance on how to assess the value of landscapes, were brought out only a few months after the NPPF, and consequently they do not refer to valued landscapes.

As a result, there have been hundreds of appeals about valued landscapes, and barristers – as well as the High Court – have argued on several occasion about what they are and how they can be defined.

The purpose of this draft guidance published by the Landscape Institute is to fill the gap; providing a definition of valued landscapes, and to provide a toolkit of factors that can be used for identifying valued landscapes. This significant progress should save days of inquiry time, and hopefully clients will be able to more easily identify sites which have development potential without having to go through the appeal process.

SLR’s Jeremy Smith (Director – Landscape Architecture) was part of a team of four landscape architects who helped to draft the guidance. Jeremy worked alongside Becky Knight of LUC who co-ordinated the team, as well as Michelle Bolger of the Expert Landscape Consultancy, and Kate Bailey, planner and landscape architect. 

In addition, a wider review group of landscape architects also provided comments, and review was provided by two experienced barristers.

The draft is open for review until Monday the 1st February, and the LI is seeking members’ feedback on the document, with particular focus on:

  • its potential use in day-to-day work
  • how ‘landscape quality’ and ‘landscape qualities’ have been defined
  • how ‘landscape value’ and ‘valued landscape’ have been defined
  • whether the document should constitute best practice or be for information only

You can access the draft and provide feedback on the Landscape Institute website.