The cumulative effects on landscape character of vertical infrastructure, such as pylons and wind turbines, can have a damaging effect on some of the most picturesque places in the UK.
Cumbria and the adjoining areas are home to a wealth of inspiring landscapes, including the Lake District National Park, visited by millions of people each year. But as the UK grows more dependent on renewable energy technologies, landscapes such as this are coming under increasing pressure to accommodate the infrastructure we need to support our expanding energy needs.
Producing Valuable Guidance
As part of an ongoing framework agreement with Cumbria County Council (CCC), our landscape architects carried out a study of the cumulative impacts of vertical infrastructure (CIVI) in order to identify where developments with notable vertical components, whether within or outside the study area, are resulting in significant cumulative effects on the landscape character and on visual amenity.
WYG Director, Mary O’Connor, as member of the Landscape Institute’s Advisory Panel, had overseen production of the Guidelines for Landscape & Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA3), and our team was thus uniquely well placed to deliver the study and to support the Council’s decision making processes with regard to proposals for new vertical structures.
Responding to Client Needs
The project presented an issue which had not previously been the subject of a study, requiring a new, bespoke approach, although based on accepted and conventional assessment methodology. Our approach used GIS to implement the step-wise assessment process advocated in GLVIA3, retaining the subtleties of verbal descriptions and criteria for assessing the sensitivity of the landscape and degree of cumulative change, correlated using matrices to assess the significance of the cumulative effects.
The GIS database and analyses are integrated with the Council’s own systems and is supporting assessment of major infrastructure projects such as National Grid’s North West Coast Connections, on which we were already providing programme management and technical support.
Shaping Future Developments
The study resulted in a number of key tools for CCC which will be instrumental in shaping how they approach future developments. Outputs, which can be seen on the CCC website, include a book of 145 maps, a GIS database of the information collated, the assessment findings and guidance for the council’s Development Management officers.
CCC approved the study and the accompanying guidance and has been using it since February 2015 in relation to proposals for wind turbines and other vertical infrastructure. We are now appointed to maintain the GIS database and update the assessment, on behalf of CCC and their District Council partners, and to assist them in responding to the NWCC assessment process.
The CIVI project was also Highly Commended at the Landscape Institute Awards in 2015. The Awards judges noted the study was “particularly strong in its technical research and analysis and creative use of landscape assessment techniques”.