Fluvial Design Guide - Chapter 5

Landscape and heritage

5.4 Common landscape techniques explained

This section explains frequently used landscape techniques and reporting methods experienced in fluvial design work.

5.4.1 Landscape character assessment (LCA)

This report-based document is used to analyse a landscape and to understand the characteristics that combine to create its overall character. LCAs operate at a range of scales from county size down to individual sites or stretches of river. They are produced to a recognised methodology as detailed in Landscape character assessment: guidance for England and Scotland (Countryside Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, 2002).

The LCA informs the project team:

  • what is valuable in landscape terms;
  • what should be retained and ideally enhanced;
  • what drivers for visual change exist within the landscape;
  • its particular vulnerability to different types of development.

5.4.2 Landscape and visual impact assessment (LVIA)

This report-based document typically leads on from an LCA and considers the particular visual impacts of a specific proposal. The LCA defines what is important and why it is important in a landscape, whereas the LVIA considers change to the landscape character resulting from planned development and the visual impact for people who will be able to see the proposed scheme.

These reports contain numerous existing photographs showing the landscape characteristics and important views and scenes in order to explain how people currently experience the area. They are also likely to contain modified photographic images showing the visual impacts of the proposals, a judgement as to whether the visual impacts are positive or negative and, if significant, the magnitude of the impact. The reporting of visual impact closely mirrors that of the environmental impact assessments that they are used to inform. Guidance and the methodology for LVIA are presented in the second edition of Guidelines for landscape and visual impact assessment (Landscape Institute and IEMA, 2002).

5.4.3 Visualisations, photo-sketches and photomontage

These drawings and images are used to illustrate what a proposal will look like. The actual terms are sometimes used inaccurately, so they are defined below.

  • Visualisation (Figure 5.3) – a hand-drawn image of what a development will look like using the graphic and interpretive skills of an artist to illustrate the appearance of proposals.
  • Photo-sketches (Figure 5.4) – manipulating an existing photograph to include a representation of the proposals using the existing photograph as a background. The proposed parts of the photo-sketch are ‘eyed-in’ by a technician or draughtsperson to the best of their efforts. These images should be viewed only as sketches.
  • Photomontage (Figure 5.5) – this is the construction of a three-dimensional (3-D) computer model of the proposals and surrounding landform onto which photographs of the existing view are digitally ‘draped’.

Photomontage is the most accurate of the three, but is a costly method of creating views of a proposal –although once a computer model is constructed and images overlain, the generation of photomontage images from a number of locations becomes more cost-effective. Photomontages can also be used to generate ‘fly-throughs’ of proposals.

Figure 5.3 Visualisation

Hand-drawn to represent the appearance of proposals using the skills of the artist to portray matters accurately. This visualisation depicts a proposed riverside floodwall in a sensitive urban setting, as part of the Frankwell flood alleviation scheme, Shrewsbury.

Figure 5.4 Photo-sketches

Combination of hand-drawn or computer-drawn proposals presented on the background of an existing photograph to give a photo-realistic image of proposals. This photo-sketch illustrates proposed timber cladding on a floodwall around a playing field, as part of proposals for the Nottingham left bank flood alleviation scheme.

Figure 5.5 Photomontage

This is the most accurate way of presenting what a new proposal will look like. A 3-D computer model of the proposal and surrounding landform has the image of the existing view ‘draped’ over it to create the photomontage.

This photomontage shows the change in landscape scene when a new flow control structure is proposed. To allow the viewer to understand the change, it is common practice to present ‘before’ and ‘after’ images together.





Banbury flood alleviation scheme

5.4.4 Environment Agency standard suite of landscape drawings

The Environment Agency has identified a set of landscape drawings with the objective of ensuring that landscape and other environmental considerations are considered and summarised throughout the evolution of a fluvial project. Listed in order of production these are:

  • Environmental site appraisal plan – survey and evaluation of site features and conditions to identify opportunities and constraints;
  • Options plan – preparation of scheme options in outline form, giving details of operational improvements and landscape enhancements;
  • Indicative landscape plan – preliminary environmental constraints and opportunities relating to the development of a preferred option;
  • Final landscape masterplan – illustration of the preferred option after detailed site planning and design options;
  • Landscape management and maintenance plan;
  • Works information – detailed design drawings, bills of quantities, specifications and any specific landscaping conditions of contract.

Further guidance on these drawings is given in Landscape and environmental design guidance (Environment Agency, 2007).

5.4.5 Management and maintenance plans

Money is often wasted implementing landscape works that ‘fail’ because there has been inadequate investment of time or money in setting up future management and maintenance works.

The most important time for planting schemes (sometimes referred to as ‘softworks’) is in the first two years after planting. This is the establishment period when plants are at their most vulnerable to drought and competition from weeds, grazing damage by rabbits and deer, accidental damage and vandalism.

The ideal solution is to have a written plan in place that sets down:

  • the proposed management objectives for the landscape;
  • the maintenance activities necessary to achieve the objectives;
  • supporting plans to locate the different areas of works.

Landscape management and maintenance plans are best included in packs of ‘as-built’ drawings and in completed health and safety files – for projects notifiable under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM Regulations) – for future site managers.

Hard landscape requires maintenance works as well. These may be as simple as sweeping paths or painting railings or more specialist such as adopting and maintaining lighting equipment but, like the softworks, they need to be carefully planned for. If it is proposed to seek local authority adoption of hardworks, they should be designed to the local authority’s adoptable standards (readily provided to developers). Be aware that local authorities may wish to inspect works they are due to adopt during their construction and request a payment for their future maintenance. Highway adoption has a well-defined process that must be followed in accordance with the requirement of the local highway authority.

There are cost implications and public and staff liabilities associated with managing landscape works. These must be recognised and planned for.

Establishment maintenance and long-term management and maintenance need to be defined and allocated to an agreed organisation. This can be the riparian owners, the project’s developers or other third parties such as local authorities or wildlife trusts. If landscape is to succeed and add quality to a scheme it must be adopted by an organisation with adequate resources to conduct regular work, rather than leaving it to fend for itself.


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