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Landscape Character Assessment

This website is the primary resource for sharing ideas and experience about Landscape Character Assessment and its applications.

View from Cockpit Hill, Dorset. © Countryside Agency/Jim Hallet

Landscape is more than ‘the view’. It is the dynamic backdrop to our lives. It is how we perceive the relationship between nature and culture in our surroundings. It is shared cultural heritage, a living record of the interaction between people and place that is vital to our local and national identity. It is a driver for local economies, a resource that must be carefully managed and maintained. Decisions that change the landscape directly affect the quality of our lives. Landscape can mean an everyday area as much as a beauty spot, and all landscapes require tailored approaches that protect, manage and plan for their sustainable futures.

Landscape character is defined as 'a distinct, recognisable and consistent pattern of elements in the landscape that makes one landscape different from another, rather than better or worse'. Put simply, landscape character is that which makes an area unique.

Only by paying proper regard to the existing character of our landscapes can informed and responsible decisions be made regarding their management, and sustainable future landscapes planned for. Through understanding how places differ we can also ensure that future development is well situated, sensitive to its location, and contributes to environmental, social and economic objectives. The need to enhance landscape character is endorsed by the Government in Planning Policy Statements and is one of the central aims of Environmental Stewardship.

Hawthorn Growing by Granite Boulders, Dartmoor National Park © Paul Glendell 2000Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is an approach to understanding the differences between landscapes, and can serve as a framework for decision-making that respects local distinctiveness. It is a way of 'unpacking' the landscape and understanding how its distinctive elements contribute to sense of place. As such, LCA is a useful tool for engaging stakeholders in sustainable development. Communities, developers, farmers and land managers, landscape and planning professionals and others all have a role in identifying the characteristics that make a particular landscape unique, and using this understanding to plan and manage landscape change.

LCA is also important for the UK's implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) - the first international convention on landscape, dedicated exclusively to the protection, management and planning of all landscapes in Europe. It provides a method to identify and assess landscapes, understand landscape change, and a framework for developing landscape quality objectives in partnership with stakeholders - all specific measures of the ELC.


more> Find out more about the ELC

more> Find out more about the Landscape Character Network

This website hosts and links to a wide range of LCA-related resources, including guidance, topic papers, and case studies of best practice.

more> Go to the resources section of this website