Landscape Character Assessment (LCA)
Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is a standard methodology for identifying, describing, classifying and mapping what is distinctive about our landscapes. It shows us their variety, and helps us to understand what makes one landscape different from another.
LCA provides baseline information that can be used to guide landscape change - for example by informing development plans, decisions on proposed development, land management plans, indicative forestry strategies and agri-environment schemes. The whole of Scotland has been mapped and described through LCA.
Landscape Character Assessment in Scotland
Between 1994 and 1999 Scottish Natural Heritage, in partnership with others, commissioned a series of LCA studies that together cover the whole of Scotland. Most cover a local authority area, and provide the landscape foundation for natural heritage and planning policymaking. They have been used extensively in the development planning system. Each of the reports can be downloaded as a pdf - some of these are large files (over 20Mb).
Scottish Landscape Character Assessment Review
The national suite of LCAs is now over 15 years old. Since the reports were produced there have been significant advances in digital technology and available data as well as changes in development patterns and pressures. There are occasions where there are cross-boundary differences between Landscape Character Types (LCTs) in neighbouring study areas. There is also variation in approach and structure between a few LCA studies.
For these reasons, Scottish Natural Heritage is reviewing Scotland's LCA studies, at character type level, to create a single dataset in an interactive digital version to be hosted on the new SNH website. The revised format will be easier to access and mapping will be much clearer. This builds on the original LCAs rather than replacing them as much of the information, including boundaries and descriptions, remains valid.
SNH is managing the LCA review, which is steered by a Core Technical Group comprising representatives from SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Heads of Planning Scotland.
The Group agreed the broad principles of the revised dataset, e.g. presentation at LCT level, use of OS basemap, omission (at present) of guidelines and forces for change; and use of a naming convention to ensure a more unified approach. The review identified some areas which needed significant review with the relevant Local Authority input. This work is now complete. We have also updated LCTs in other areas where necessary, and then reformatted and digitised the boundaries of all LCTs to achieve a standard approach throughout Scotland.
In spring 2017 we are consulting Local Authorities on the reformatted LCTs. We will then incorporate any suggested changes which fit with the national approach.
Later in 2017 we will be building the new web page where all of the reviewed information will sit. Boundaries will be shown on a zoom-able 1:50,000 colour raster OS layer. There will be links to the landscape character description and photographs for each LCT. There will also be links to other relevant documents based on LCA, such as capacity studies.
We are also reviewing and standardising the LCA "background chapter" information, on geology, climate, human settlement, etc. This will also be available on the new web page, but at a later date than the LCT descriptions.