Thinking inside the box….

….Box 5.1 of the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Third Edition (GLVIA3) published by the Landscape Institute and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, to be precise. Box 5.1 sets out eight criteria against which landscape value might be assessed. These are landscape quality (condition), conservation interest, scenic quality, recreation value, rarity, perceptual aspects, representativeness and associations.

Whether or not a landscape qualifies as a ‘valued landscape’ which, Paragraph 109 of the NPPF tells us, the planning system should protect and enhance, has been a subject of much debate at appeals recently. We have referred to this matter in a previous Blog – Value judgments.

Back in 2015 an inspector dealing with an appeal against the refusal of permission for a housing development in Warwickshire (DCS Number 200-003-421) had this to say: “I do not consider the only way to define the value of a landscape is to carry out the analysis contained in Box 5.1 of the GLVIA.”….”Had the NPPF intended this to be a technical process then it would have said so.” Here, then, the inspector appears to be recognising that there must be some element of subjectivity.

In a more recent appeal concerning housing development in County Durham (DCS Number 200-006-897) an inspector acknowledged that paragraph 109 gives no clear guidance on what constitutes a valued landscape. He recorded, however, that some clarity has arisen as a result of other appeals and subsequent legal judgements, with both parties in the case before him making reference to the Stroud District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2015 and Forest of Dean District Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Gladman Developments Ltd 2016 court cases. He explained that these indicate that for a landscape to be valued it has to be more than just popular. It should have some demonstrable physical attribute which takes it out of the ordinary and beyond mere countryside. Further, he considered that the Stroud judgment appears to endorse GLVIA3 Box 5.1 as a relevant consideration in such matters.

Perhaps the best way forward with this is to aim for consistent decision-making through the application of a standardised form of assessment using the objective criteria set out in GLVIA3 Box 5.1, whilst recognising that the interpretation of the results must always involve a certain level of subjectivity.

The following DCP section is relevant: 4.25

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