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Policy Change and ELC Implementation: Establishment of a baseline for understanding the impact of the European Landscape Convention in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Maggie RoeORCiD


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The UK has been at the forefront of the development of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) and since ratification of the ELC in November 2006 the UK has pushed forward research based on an understanding for a need for a greater knowledge base relating to theory and methods as well as actions for ELC implementation. A key issue identified has been: How can implementation of the ELC can be achieved within national policy? There is an important understanding throughout Europe that changes are required in policy and practice in order to achieve the objectives of the ELC. Change of any kind is often understood by examining the nature of the change over time. There is an understanding that since policy changes over time it is important to identify the present ‘state of policy’ in relation to ELC intent before change in policy as a possible result of ELC implementation can be monitored. Thus some kind of starting point needs to be identified i.e. a baseline. Policies and guidance help to manage the condition of the landscape and they should reflect community attitudes to the landscape. If we regard the ELC as now providing us with the baseline that encapsulates our overall attitude to landscape which then affects our use and management of it, then monitoring policy change in relation to the ELC is important for understanding attitudes as well as desirable actions. In terms of policy, the expectation is that the quality of policy will change for the better over time in relation to the objectives of the ELC and there is a general assumption that there will be a similar positive response identifiable on the ground. However there are considerable difficulties in terms of attributing the causes of the change (the: Why has change occurred?) to the ELC because of the many other drivers of policy change. This paper discusses research which led to the development of the construction of a baseline that provides the starting point for the examination of policy change in the UK relevant to ELC implementation. The research was commissioned by Defra (the UK Government) and undertaken by a team of academics, led by researchers at Newcastle University. In addition to assessment of policy itself, it was important that an assessment of the present understanding of change was incorporated into the baseline; so the theoretical foundation for the baseline was as: (a) A record of the state of thinking/understanding of change as expressed within the overall policy framework and academic literature in relation to ELC implementation; (b) a record of the state of alignment within key UK policy with the ELC, and (c) a record of the state of tools presently used. The research questions that emerged were: (1) What should a baseline consist of for monitoring policy change in relation to the implementation of the ELC? (2) What are the key issues revealed by an analysis of the existing baseline situation? The baseline for understanding the impact of the European Landscape Convention in the UK was devised in three main parts plus a summary and consisted of (i) an investigation into ‘landscape change’; (ii) an overview of Sectoral policy and tools, and (iii) a detailed policy content review (through a digest system based on evaluation sheets using the principles and Articles of the ELC as monitoring indicators). An analysis of the baseline findings revealed a number of key points: · Landscape change remains a difficult issue, particularly the attribution of cause-and-effect between policy and change on the ground; · The ‘direction of travel’ towards improved consistency with ELC in UK policy is positive; · There is potential within UK policy to make links to the ELC more explicit and this may help to align the performance of all four devolved administrations within the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales); · There is potential for more ‘planning’ in UK policy and for identifying landscape opportunities; · It is important to consider the principles and intent of the ELC and all the ELC Articles when assessing implementation performance. This paper focuses on the theoretical basis for establishing a baseline for policy change monitoring in relation to ELC implementation and the methodological development of the baseline. It outlines the approach and framework devised and details the components of the baseline. Key findings of the analysis are summarised. The discussion relates to the issues raised by the construction of the baseline and the development of theoretical approaches that are required to understand the effects of policy development on landscape as well as a need for new methodological frameworks for monitoring policy change in relation to ELC implementation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Roe MH

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: The European Landscape Convention in Research Perspective: Proceedings of the Living Landscape Conference

Year of Conference: 2010

Pages: 371-385

Publisher: Uniscape / Bandecchi & Vivaldi