Fluvial Design Guide - Chapter 5

Landscape and heritage

5.1 Why consider landscape and heritage?

5.1.1 Landscape

Landscape is a broad term used to summarise the visual appearance of an area or a specific site. The formation of an area’s landscape appearance depends on numerous factors ranging from topography and the underlying geology through to land use and human settlement (Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1 Factors affecting landscape appearance

The diagram illustrates the combined influences that all act to create landscape appearance.









Reproduced with permission from Landscape character assessment: guidance for England and Scotland (Countryside Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, 2002).

Landscape appearance provokes subjective responses in people. One group of people might consider a rural scene to be a beautiful countryside idyll, whereas another group may view it as uninteresting agricultural scenery with nothing of visual interest to give it merit. People’s subjective responses are also related to the proximity of the landscape to places that hold emotional attachments for them, namely their homes, places they visit for recreation and relaxation, or where they conduct business.

People have emotional attachments to landscapes and they are often opposed to any significant changes to the landscapes that they value.

In the context of most fluvial schemes – and particularly flood defence works – the general public may not feel capable of commenting on the engineering aspects of the scheme, but they do feel qualified to comment on the appearance of the project. The ‘tip of the iceberg’ principle should be remembered by the project team working on designing and constructing a flood defence asset. This principle is that all the best engineering practice below ground or within the asset cannot be seen and it is only the visible part that is perceived as the flood defence by the public. Figure 5.2 gives an example of the application of this principle.

Another matter that can fall into the broad field of ‘landscape’ is the opportunity for providing public art and interpretation in association with the scheme. Artwork, if it is designed well and is appropriate to its setting, can bring valuable character and enjoyment to a project. But to achieve a successful outcome, the procurement, design, delivery and integration of artwork into a wider engineering project needs to be carefully planned and the process should preferably involve local residents.

Further insight and guidance into landscape and environmental design for rivers can be gained from National Environmental Assessment Service (NEAS) operational guidance. Volume 3: Landscape and environmental design guidance (Environment Agency, 2007). Box 5.1 summarises why it is vital to consider landscape in fluvial design.

Figure 5.2 The tip of the iceberg effect

The best engineering practice can be covered up and hidden by the external cladding to a flood defence structure.

It is this external appearance that people live with and feel able to comment upon. Attention must be given to the completed external appearance of the proposed development – in this case a floodwall – to ensure that it is appropriate for its immediate setting. In this wall, various cladding materials have been used and the adjacent hard landscaping has been enhanced to create an improved riverside walkway.

Frankwell flood alleviation scheme, Shrewsbury

Box 5.1 Why landscape must be considered in fluvial design

  • People assign emotional value to landscapes and will comment strongly about, and indeed object to, the appearance of river and flood alleviation works that they do not like.
  • The strength of people’s feelings depends on the proximity of the landscape to them and how they use or view an area.
  • The value of a landscape needs to be understood before the impacts upon it can be assessed.
  • Landscape appearance should be retained where it is perceived to be of high quality.
  • Negative impacts on landscape appearance should be mitigated as part of flood defence works.
  • Where it is perceived to be of moderate or low quality, landscape appearance can be improved by enhancement works.
  • Local planning authorities protect landscape appearance and require detailed information on the future appearance of works they are asked to approve.
  • Landscape mitigation and enhancement works can add significant costs to a project. They need to be justified and be appropriate to the setting of the works.
  • Landscape works need to estimated and planned for appropriately, just like any other part of a fluvial project.

5.1.2 Heritage

Heritage is a collective term used for a number of specific subject areas, including:

  • archaeology;
  • individual historical buildings and structures;
  • historic townscape areas;
  • historic land-use patterns;
  • cultural heritage and events;
  • industrial heritage and development;
  • designed parklands and gardens;
  • veteran trees and ancient hedgerows;
  • battlefields and war memorials.

All these heritage areas are subject to different designations and consenting regimes. One thing they do have in common is that the elements are part of our national heritage and cannot be replaced.

A system of protection, research and interpretation is promoted in the UK with different national agencies responsible across the home nations. These include:

  • local planning authorities;
  • county archaeological services;
  • English Heritage;
  • Cadw in Wales;
  • Historic Scotland;
  • Environmental Heritage Service in Northern Ireland.

These agencies supply guidance for identifying heritage assets in an area and consenting works regarding:

  • listed buildings and structures;
  • conservation areas;
  • scheduled ancient monuments;
  • archaeologically important areas;
  • registered parks and gardens;
  • designated historic landscapes;
  • ancient hedgerows and tree preservation orders;
  • historic battlefields.

The process for consent applications varies between authorities. It is recommended that experienced practitioners are used to give advice and, if required, to make applications for works affecting such heritage features.

Further reference can be found in Guidance for project managers within NCPMS and NEAS. Volume 4: Archaeology and the Environment Agency (Environment Agency, 2006). Box 5.2 summarises why it is vital to consider heritage in fluvial design.

Box 5.2 Why heritage must be considered in fluvial design

  • To protect known and unknown national assets that cannot be replaced.
  • To record and preserve historic features for future generations.
  • To interpret heritage features, encouraging a better understanding of an area’s past use and development.
  • Works may not be given development consent if there is an unacceptable heritage impact.
  • Exploratory works – especially intrusive archaeological investigation (‘digs’) and evaluation – can add programme delays and considerable cost to a project, so this need must be identified early.
  • There is considerable risk that unknown heritage features are discovered during construction, adding significant time and cost to a project as they are investigated, the impacts upon them are assessed and, where necessary, mitigated.



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