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Landscape Quality: Policy Performance in England in Relation to the European Landscape Convention

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Maggie RoeORCiD


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In November 2007 researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Manchester were commissioned by Natural England to carry out research in support of the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC). Specifically, to examine whether current policy in England reflects the content of the Convention. The methodology of the project was qualitative, based on a content analysis of sample documents focussed primarily at the national and regional levels. An examination of the language and intent of the documents was carried out and key considerations from Articles 5 & 6 of the Convention were identified and used as indicators of intent. Digest sheets for each policy document were produced and an overall analysis then carried out. The major objective was to identify mechanisms within policy documents that guide regional authorities on how to incorporate, connect and respect landscape in strategies and guidance relating to spatial planning and policy sectors. This paper uses the results of this study to reflect on the new challenges that have arisen for policy makers and planners in England as a result of the ratification of the ELC. The results of the project show that while it is important to consider the intent of documents as well as the language used the difficulty is in finding robust indicators that provide for the landscape issues set out in the Convention and that can be used to in an examination of cross-sectoral policies. This paper focuses in particular on how these results relate to issues of landscape quality. Quality is now a core consideration not only within the ELC, but generally in landscape and planning policy circles; a new language has developed that reflects this (quality of life, visual quality, etc.). Indeed this issue of quality has become a key consideration in many of the tools now used routinely in landscape assessment, planning and design. Nan Fairbrother suggested that ‘even universal respect for the environment is still not enough. There must first be an environment worth respecting, and even the most excellent planning policy will not of itself create a good environment. This in fact is our present landscape tragedy: that the old was mostly good, the new is mostly not, and that through planning has limited the spread of the new, it has scarcely at all improved its quality’ (Fairbrother, 1972, p.174). Landscape policy is the framework under which decisions are made and actions are taken by policy-makers and planners to address landscape change in the UK. Fairbrother believed in action; she understood that we cannot rely on the cultural land management traditions of the past to provide a quality landscape for the future when such traditions are ‘vanishing’ and are unresponsive to the needs of a changing society. Now as then, we need active tools to ensure that whatever we have, we have quality in our landscape. This paper reflects on what is meant by ‘landscape quality’ and whether our present policy and planning tools respond to this desire for quality that is central to ELC thinking. Reference: Fairbrother, N. (1972 orig. 1970) New Lives, New Landscapes (Harmondsworth, Penguin)

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roe MH

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: New Landscapes - New Lives: New Challenges in Landscape Planning, Design and Management

Year of Conference: 2008

Publisher: European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools