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Landscape Character

CPRE is concerned that our landscape is being steadily eroded, resulting in a spreading blandness and loss of character afflicting England's small towns and the countryside in which they are set. As a result our National Office started a Countryside Character Campaign in 2005 to:

  • Show people why landscape character matters
  • Raise awareness about the loss of landscape character
  • Understand more about why this loss is happening
  • Work out what can be done to prevent loss and, wherever possible, recover and enhance local distinctiveness

After two successful pilot projects in Hampshire and Shropshire, CPRE launched an action pack titled "Unlocking the Landscape" in May 2006. This is an action pack designed to equip a community with the tools to be able to produce its own Community Landscape Character Statement. The statement describes and champions the special qualities of the countryside, as perceived by the local community, and is designed to be used as a Supplementary Planning Document, helping to inform local decisions on planning applications and to be used by farmers to help apply for land management funding.

Landscape Character Assessment

rolling hils landscape

The approach to landscape character assessment is evolving all the time. The cultural heritage, or time depth of the landscape and its ecological value form an important part of the evaluation. This is called an integrated landscape character assessment. In the past this work has been top down and undertaken by experts in the field. Best practice now requires that the views of the local communities about the landscape should form part of the evaluation.

That is where CPRE comes in. There is now the opportunity for local communities to contribute to the process, providing a bottom up perspective to inform the bottom down one described above. The Parish, or Community Landscape appraisal is an exercise in which local people get involved in looking at their landscape and working out what matters to them in it and which of its features contribute most to their affection for it. CPRE has produced a tool-kit (Unlocking the Landscape) that has so far, in Hampshire, been piloted at Chilbolton and successfully completed in Liss and Buriton.

Informs Planning Decisions

Now we come to the really important bit. The document that emerges from this community exercise then feeds directly into the Village Design Statement, which is ultimately adopted as part of the Local Development Framework (Local Plan in old money). What it does is carve out the evidence that can form the basis of decisions about such as...whether to put a wind-farm on top of a beautiful bit of downland, for example. It ought to be much easier to oppose such developments successfully if one has this sort of evidence at the outset, rather than trying to assemble it in response to a particular application.

CPRE Hampshire is working with Hampshire County Council experts to try to encourage and support communities that want to carry out these assessments. They can be done by an individual parish or by a group of neighbouring parishes. They involve a short but intensive spell of work by a small group of volunteers and they cost a bit of money, chiefly for printing the document.

Parish Seminars

CPRE Hampshire has now run two annual seminars for Parish Councils and amenity groups, the most recent on 10th November 2010. These provide a good opporunity to share knowledge on developing landscape character assessments.

Read the report on the 2010 Seminar, 2009 Seminar.

Case Study

In revising its Village Design Statement, the village of Liss decided that a Community Landscape Character Assessment should be undertaken as a first step.

Go to Liss Outreach Day for an article decribing their approach.

Get Involved

Does your village want to undertake a Community Landscape Character Statement? This can be a valuable asset to many villages who are planning to revise or update their Village Design Statements or Parish Plans. It will provide supporting evidence to inform planning decisions that affect the landscape, such as proposed wind farms.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact CPRE Hampshire Branch Office, and/or consult the toolkit Unlocking the Landscape (see below).

Further Reading

  • This page was based on the article 'Green Landscape: Green Energy', by Margaret Paren in Hampshire Views No. 1. (PDF).
  • Unlocking the Landscape - a step-by-step guide (PDF: 195K; opens in new window) to carrying out a Community Landscape Character Statement.

This page last updated 8th May 2011.

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