Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is a technique for looking at all the components of landscape, including the physical, perceptual, ecological, historic and visual, and understanding how these combine together. The way that they combine will be different in one place from another, leading to the classification of the landscape into generic ‘landscape types’ such as open downland or major scarps, and locally specific ‘landscape character areas’. It is a way of 'unpacking' the landscape and understanding how its distinctive elements came about, the forces for change that are affecting them and how they contribute to sense of place.
This information provides the essential baseline for making decisions about change, whether as a result of land management or development. It is recognised by Government as a valuable tool, and local authorities are encouraged in planning policy to base their land use decisions on a thorough understanding of the landscape. It is at its most effective when stakeholders and local communities are actively involved in its production.
Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) has been undertaken at a variety of levels and scales. The national Character of England maps and descriptions developed by Natural England provide a broad context for County, District, Parish and site level LCAs. The Countryside Agency in 2000 also published guidance for the preparation of LCAs, but as a technique it is always evolving and the County Council's Environmental Group has led on a number of new initiatives. Recent developments in LCA within the County have included piloting local community involvement in the Test Valley Borough LCA and new approaches to townscape and seascape assessment in Havant Borough to provide a seamless assessment across the rural, urban and marine environment.
Our local landscape is the backdrop to our daily lives. We often take it for granted, and it is only when something changes that we realise how much we value it. It may be a particular view, or the sense of history we experience as we walk along a hedge-lined track with high banks, or a part of our town or village that has a pleasing combination of buildings and spaces. Local distinctiveness & local landscape character is about what communities think makes their local area distinctive and unique.
Together with Community Action Hampshire we have produced guidance which forms part of a range of community led planning documents -