Hampshire’s landscape is exceptional in terms of the national significance of its built, natural and historic environment. This is reflected in the establishment of a National Park for the New Forest, a proposed National Park for the South Downs, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, numerous designated wildlife and archaeological sites and a wealth of historic towns, villages and individual buildings. However, this does not mean that the landscapes outside the designated areas and sites are of lesser importance. Indeed, many areas outside those designated landscapes support more features of natural and cultural significance per square kilometre than are found within them. It is essential that the whole landscape is understood and valued for its intrinsic worth when considering management issues or land use change.
The landscape of Hampshire is subject to change from a number of headline factors:
Climate change, which could alter dramatically the fabric of the landscape in the near future;
Changes in the support mechanisms for agriculture, leading to possible semi-abandonment, changes to crops as farmers become more market-led, enhanced conservation activity and diversified uses for land and buildings;
Pressure for high levels of development;
Increased car use, leading to further development of the transport infrastructure and heavy traffic on unsuitable roads;
Renewable energy, requiring visually intrusive infrastructure and new crops
To help address these headline issues certain key principles underpin the work of the Group:
The overall quality and diversity of landscape character across the County is conserved, maintained and enhanced;
The distinctive sense of place and individual identity of each particular area is conserved, maintained and enhanced;
Landscape issues are addressed through a partnership approach;
Future change in the landscape is guided by land management planning at a strategic and local level;
Land use and land management decisions are informed by an understanding of the sensitivity of the landscape and its tolerance to change;
All landscapes should be considered on their own merits, regardless of designation;
Consistent policies for protected areas are established between all partner authorities and organisations;
A consistent approach is taken towards land both inside and outside protected area boundaries;
An integrated approach towards policy formulation is taken, to ensure that the principles of sustainability, reflecting environmental, economic and community needs, are embodied in policies.
In order to deliver these principles, the Strategic Environmental Delivery Group will work with internal and external partners in developing best practice in a number of key specialist areas. Assessment of Landscape Character is a nationally recognised discipline for classifying and describing landscape. It provides the baseline for monitoring change and for Land Management Planning. We have worked with a wide range of partners in implementing these in Protected Landscapes.
With the pressure for new development that comes from the proposals in the South East Regional Plan it is vital that its environmental implications are understood fully. Our work on Landscape Sensitivity is breaking new ground in understanding the inherent tolerance of the environment to change. Finally, through our continuing involvement in the South East Regional Plan and liaison with colleagues in the County Council and Districts, we contribute to Landscape Planning issues across Hampshire, including policy formulation and Minerals and Waste planning.