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Landscape Character

On this page you can find definitions of landscape character and the field of Landscape Character Assessment (LCA).

Defining Landscape Character

Landscape character is defined as the distinct, recognisable and consistent pattern of elements in the landscape. It it these patterns that give each locality its 'sense of place', making one landscape different from another, rather than better or worse. In defining the combinations of components which make each landscape unique, landscape character is a way of thinking about landscape more holistically and objectively, rather than focusing on scenic beauty and subjective responses. Landscapes have evolved over time as a result of both natural and cultural processes.

  • Natural processes give rise to the physical structure of the landscape – geology, land form and soils.
  • Cultural processes give rise to varying patterns and types of tree cover, field boundaries and settlement – they are a reflection of man's endeavours to live on and from the land.

Physical elements provide the fundamentally stable basic pattern of landscape, while cultural elements are superimposed on this and are more fluid, reflecting social and land use changes over time. Layered on top of this is the perceptual element – our own personal appreciation of landscape and how we relate to or make use of it, as individuals and communities.

Defining and Using Landscape Character Assessment

Landscape Character Assessment – or LCA – is a tool for identifying and studying the features that make up the character of the landscape. LCA is typically undertaken at a county scale. There are two phases to the LCA process:

the first classification and description phase is used to sub-divide the landscape into areas of similar character at various scales. These areas – the units of landscape character – can then be described and classified (as explained in more detail in the section below)

the second analysis and evaluation phase builds on the classification and description phase by using the detailed database it produces to develop a strategic framework for landscape policies and identify priorities for action

LCA is most commonly used as the basis for giving advice and guidance to local authority planning staff, both for strategic and development control purposes. For more detailed information and advice on the use of LCA in planning, please visit our planning and development Advice page.

LCA it is also of great relevance to the land management and conservation sectors where it can be used to support or guide applications for agri-environment schemes, woodland management projects and other land-based initiatives. For more detailed information and advice on the use of LCA in land management practice, please visit our land management Advice page.

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This page was last reviewed 7 February 2014 at 18:00.
The page is next due for review 6 August 2015.