countryside of Scotland is a rich tapestry of mountain and glen,
castle and village, wood, stream and bog. But how do we decide what
is important, what is more beautiful than the rest, or is worthy
These notes look at these issues, focusing on the evaluation of
promoted maps sought to apply quality assessment to land form, despite
attendant difficulties of subjectivity ( even where 'experts' are
used) and boundary delineation (hills and valleys overlap!). Currently
promoted methodology of Landscape Character Assessment eliminates
'elitist' priority objectives and is not tied to any particular
1. Methodology of Landscape Character Assessment
processes should be clearly distinguished. Both the Countryside
Agency (Countryside Commission) in England and Scottish Natural
Heritage have surveyed their areas using a methodology originally
devised by Land Use Consultants to identify consistent and recognisable
Landscape Types (often called Landscape Character Areas). The second
process has been to associate these with an ecological classification
to provide Character Zones (Natural Heritage Zones in Scotland)
whose objective is to guide the locational interpretation of environmental
policies and plans.
here is only to describe the general process employed in identifying
Landscape classification is the process of dividing the landscape
into types or areas of distinct, recognisable and common character
and mapping their distribution. The process has three stages: desk
survey; analysis; and confirmatory field survey.
first stage the objective is to map Landform (eg topography), Land
cover (eg woodland) and Landscape elements (eg pylons). In each
case the principal requirement is that whatever is mapped should
looks at the distribution of these elements, visual envelopes and
views, the ecological and geological structure of the land and the
historical pattern of landscape development (the cultural component).
'Experts' are inevitably involved at this stage and impose elements
of both rationalisation and subjectivity.
survey is needed to: confirm the mapping process on the ground;
to map features for which there is no desk information (eg stone
walls); and to provide 'objective' descriptions of the land (eg
County Clare Pilot Project
We shall be using the example of a proposed landscape survey of
County Clare in Ireland and seeking to define:
the objectives of such a survey
the methods we might employ
how we might use the results
cultural heritage and landscape have become important aspects of
tourism growth, Ireland has no system of recognising 'more valuable'
landscapes. The objective of the survey is therefore to examine
existing information about County Clare and to devise a methodology
that could be applied across the rest of Ireland.
Much information about the land is already held in GIS form by
the Heritage Council (and other Government Depts etc). What is missing?
And how does this relate to 'quality'? Although topography, habitats
etc are held as spatial and data units, there may be a need to reassemble
these to provide 'landscape unit' boundaries and data. Are community
and historical characteristics also relevant? It may be possible
to build in weightings to these data sets to devise a quality assessment,
but who should quantify the weighting and at what value? Would a
field survey be needed? Are there other ways of approaching the
Let us assume the results are transferrable across Ireland. Do
we persuade the Government to introduce a new Designation, amalgamate
with other data sets to create a zoning system, or just use them
as a focus of publicity? Are extra planning powers or additional
funding needed to preserve their character and quality?
NSA in Scotland
The debate on
the relevance of National Scenic Areas to Scotland is set within the
context that the whole landscape of Scotland is often perceived as
scenic. Why should 12% be thought better than the rest? The current
issues are perhaps that:
arrival of 'landscape character areas' has provided an easier
to use, consistent and more understandable approach to landscape
design for foresters, land managers and planners alike.
distinction of scenic without its attendant social and ecological
links is thought to be invalid in a climate of biodiversity
and an integrated SNH (are Natural Heritage Areas a more appropriate
planning and management unit)
subjectivity implied in their initial identification is difficult
to test or quantify
limited powers available to conserve NSA have constrained their
impact on the professional planner, land manager etc.
I shall use
the example of the three NSA in Dumfries and Galloway to discuss
these background issues and to explore the ways forward.
Solway National Scenic Areas(The Fleet Valley, East
Stewartry Coast and the Nith Estuary)
designation accepts that some landscapes will change but aims to
ensure that this change is positive and is handled sensitively."
character assessment, pioneered in Dumfries and Galloway, has now
found a preeminent role in setting policy and management guidance for
landscape. Most Local Authorities, Scottish Natural Heritage and the
Scottish Executive (PAN 60) ,however, recognise the importance of
National Scenic Areas as representing the primary landscape resource
for which Scotland is renown and for which specific options are required.
The pilot study of the Solway NSA's has assisted in understanding
how landscape character areas as well as other conservation designations
and land management practices and programmes can be focused in NSA,
and may assist in providing models that are relevant to National
Parks, Natural Heritage Areas and other wild areas.
has been voiced with regard to NSA selection criteria and location,
and with regard to the relevance and efficacy of current planning and
agricultural and forestry management measures. The choice, inter
alia, of the NSAs in Dumfries and Galloway is apposite both because
of the progress on its biodiversity and other management programmes
and because of the special character of its NSAs.
confidence in and public recognition and comprehension of NSA it will
be important to explore their characteristics, the issues that affect
them and the existing and potential processes of decision and management.
What are the key issues the
Project must address?
Funding is not
just an issue of taking appropriate opportunities under existing
regulations (forestry grants, agri-environment schemes, historic
buildings etc) or of focusing eligible funding to NSA's (Dumfries and
Galloway Council already provide enhanced amenity planting grants in
the three NSA) -although much more could be achieved this way- but is
also a matter of identifying other opportunities ( Lottery Funds,
European Protected Area Programme, Scottish Tourist Board, local
sources) in building partnerships for research, presentation and publicity.
It may, for
example, be possible to take advantage of the Crown Estates 'Scottish
Coastal Community project Scheme', or to develop a 'National Scenic
Areas Week' in partnership with STB and Scottish Enterprise.
2. Control and Management
It is unlikely
that any new measures will be available or introduced to implement
management objectives for NSA. There are possibilities that the
Scottish Executive could extend the referral mechanisms already in
place for NSA but the first lesson of the Dumfriesshire area is that
the issues that are significant across Scotland must be identified
across a wider range of scenic character than is encompassed through
the pilot project.
NSA management will primarily be implemented through other statutory
and non statutory strategies, from those of Structure and Local
Plans to forestry strategies and LBAP and Countryside Premium Scheme
(or its replacement) priorities and programmes. A key objective
for Dumfries and Galloway must therefore be to be fully transparent
and convincing in its justification of management proposals.
A first step
will almost certainly be to explore the elements and limitiations of
objectivity in defining scenic quality for NSA. Several examples now
exist elsewhere (Netherlands, Ireland) that could be considered. Some
measure of understanding will also clearly be achieved from the
Landscape Character Assessment already in place.
advice is already available to local authorities and most rural
agencies, usually in-house.
design assistance might be needed in our NSA. Whilst design standards
are already well framed in terms of vernacular architecture,
forestry, farm conservation, road margins and many others, is there a
need for design expectations in NSA to be defined and expressed
across these disciplines for their specific scenic circumstances, and
also perhaps for a wider audience.
There may be
something to be gained from exploring the potential of GIS to model
futures. Examples range from river catchment management in the Nile
Delta to the work proceding at the Countryside Commission for Wales
which are designed to allow others in the public domain to test
impact and the robustness of the land and landscape.
4. Community Involvement
development of new skills and experience in community participation
in land resource management (National Parks and others) and the
non-statutory nature of NSA management plans provide the opportunity
to explore a wider range of techniques than are currently employed in Scotland.
analysis and training provided, for example, by the University
of Wales at Aberystwyth must be thought to offer a sound basis
for the approaches that can be adopted.
essentials that must be put in place are an institutional and
profesional framework for participation, participation in assessment
and evaluation, and participation in management and design.
Much of the
institutional and professional framework is already in place or is
viewed with sympathy. However that which exists must be built on by
examining the methods of participation that will be required, easing
their implementation and ensuring the funding that may be needed.
of early participation have been tried, experimented or implemented.
The 'Quality of Life' experiment in Dunbartonshire was well praised
in its day, for example. The keys for the NSA lie perhaps in
exploring perceptions, involving a wide spectrum of the community
(the young for example), and in retaining interest throughout the
programme (for example by newsletter or interactive web sites). A
cost implication is apparent but would be less burdensome if
identified early and shared appropriately.
term needs of participation require not only the mechanisms of
interaction but the development of the right tools, methods and
methodologies that can offer easy access to the debate, simple but
accurate interactivity and a clear respect for and rewarding
participatory channel for all those involved. I am sure, for example,
that the Crichton Campus, Barony or Dumfries College could quickly
develop effective local courses in design and philosophy for
landowners, farmers and others building on their existing expertise.
Council for Europe 'European Landscape Convention' was
opened for signature at the end of October 2000 and calls on member
recognise landscapes in law as an essential component of people's
surroundings, an expression of the diversity of their shared cultural
and natural heritage, and a foundation of their identity;
establish and implement landscape policies aimed at landscape
protection, management and planning through the adoption of the
specific measures set out in Article 6;
establish procedures for the participation of the general public,
local and regional authorities, and other parties with an interest in
the definition and implementation of the landscape policies mentioned
in paragraph b above;
integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies and
in its cultural, environmental, agricultural, social and economic
policies, as well as in any other policies with possible direct or
indirect impact on landscape.