Use the links below for guidance on the various stages involved when considering Landscape and Biodiversity issues in the design of development schemes.
Why consider landscape through the development process?
All development should be appropriate to its context. In addition, open spaces and the natural environment provide opportunities to help new development mitigate against and adapt to a changing climate. Examples include flood protection through use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), functional flood water storage and micro-climate control such as offsetting the urban heat island effects through shading and cooling from trees.
Developers should consider the opportunities the site offers and should think beyond the site’s boundaries to the surrounding area, especially with smaller sites. Opportunities to enhance landscape character should be considered early within the development process, with realistic, long term management arrangements set up as early as possible. The diagram below briefly illustrates the five steps for considering landscape within the development process.
The sections below outline in more detail each of the steps in the above development process, and identify ways landscape considerations should be integrated into pre-submission, submission and implementation stages of the planning process.
Stage 1 Information gathering
The National Planning Policy Framework promotes that the design and layout of new development must take opportunities for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions. Understanding a site and its surrounds can assist in developing landform, street patterns, built form and landscape strategies that reflect and respond to the site’s character. There are a number of ways in which developers and decision makers can ensure that the wider context is incorporated into the design process (further information can be found in the Design Module).
a. Desk based review
A desk based review enables an understanding of landscape character in which to inform the design of new development. Considering information from a desk based review at an early stage in the development process will achieve greater time and financial savings later.
Sources of information include:
- The Southern Hertfordshire Landscape Character Assessment (LCA)
- North Hertfordshire and Stevenage Landscape Character Assessment
- Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record and Historic Landscape Characterisation project
- Historic England’s Heritage List
- Hertfordshire Strategic Green Infrastructure Plans
b. Employing specialists
Specialist input will often be required to fully address landscape issues. Many professional bodies such as the Landscape Institute and the Arboricultural Association keep a database of contractors by region or specialism and will have guidelines on selecting a consultant. When employing a specialist, the following should be considered:
- Level of appropriate specialist knowledge and expertise
- Is the consultant able to deliver the full range of services from inception to site operations, and management or will sub consultants be required?
- If sub consultants are required, does the contract allow for critical dependencies from one consultant to another e.g. information exchange between consultants?
- Evidence of previous relevant work on comparable schemes
- Ability to defend scheme or position as appropriate at Inquiry
- Professional affiliations and memberships
c. Site survey and site analysis
Site survey and site analysis are key tools for developing a design that responds to a place. The site survey is the objective practice of collecting key information about a site, whilst the site analysis is the subjective interpretation of the site survey, which identifies opportunities and constraints to guide design options.
Site survey information should be clearly and accurately recorded on a scaled plan. The box below sets out factors to consider in producing a site survey.
Have the following been considered as part of the site survey?
- Landform and site levels (contours or spot heights in metres)
- Geology and soils
- Vegetation – form; habitat; species; accurate sizes; condition; potential for habitat restoration/enhancement
- Hydrology and floodplain
- Drainage and drainage routes; position of services and overhead cables/infrastructure
- Historic landscape character and historic buildings or archaeological remains
- Existing buildings and structures
- Character and condition of site boundaries
- Land use, including adjacent land use
- Farmland status (with reference to Agricultural Land Classification)
- Key views
- Landmarks or focal points
- Light and noise levels
- Site contamination – decontamination processes may affect the feasibility of retaining landscape features
- Access, circulation and movement
- Sunpath, shadow and microclimate; prevailing wind direction (‘wind rose’)
- Planning designations e.g. TPO, Conservation Areas
The site survey should be interpreted by the designer in terms of opportunities and constraints through site analysis. The simplified diagram below illustrates how this could be done.
Failure to protect hedgerows and trees can result in significant fines (up to £20,000 per tree).
Developments affecting trees should take into account the full requirements of British Standard 5837:2012 (Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction. Recommendations). This details the requirements in terms of tree surveys, Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA), Arboricultural Method Statements (AMS) and the Tree Protection Plan (TPP).
The following should also be considered:
- National Planning Practice Guidance – sets out the legislation governing Tree Preservation Orders and tree protection in conservation areas.
- Natural England Countryside hedgerows: protection and management, provides guidance regarding whether you can remove or work on countryside hedgerows that you own or manage
- British Standard 3998:2010 Tree Work. Recommendations – Best practice for arboricultural/tree surgery works.
- National House Builders Council (NHBC) – Technical Standards Building Near Trees.
- The Arboricultural Association – Arboricultural Practice Notes
- Proximity to underground utilities – National Joint Utilities Group
Where trees are protected by a condition from a previous planning permission (TPO or in a conservation area) pruning or felling must have permission from the Local Planning Authority before any work is carried out.
Stage 2 Pre-application discussions
Pre-application discussions with the Local Planning Authority can identify and help resolve key site issues. It is important to understand the planning and historical context of the site before the meeting, to maximise opportunities for discussion about opportunities and constraints. Consultation with the public and consultees is also useful at this stage. The bullets below list those topics that should be discussed at the pre-application stage. More information can be found in the Development Checklist.
A checklist for pre-application discussions:
- Has a baseline survey been carried out that identifies opportunities for open spaces and important landscape features?
- Can impacts be avoided, thus saving the need for mitigation?
- Can landscape fragmentation be avoided?
- Can existing features in or around the site be linked or extended?
- Is the development making the most from the peripheral, linear areas of the site?
- Does the planting/landscaping proposed incorporate a good mix of native species?
- Can impacts on existing features be minimised saving time and money?
- Can selection of the right option save time and money in the long term?
- Are the options for minimising impacts/creating opportunities so restricted that compensation measures off-site need to be explored?
- Is the background information that has been undertaken adequate and appropriate?
- Has consideration been given to the role new or enhanced landscapes can play in helping to adapt to make development more resilient to a changing climate?
Stage 3 Developing the design
Design principles established at the outset and informed during Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the development process will form the basis of an indicative landscape strategy, and the Design and Access Statement (where required).
Using Landscape Character Assessments
The Hertfordshire LCA can be used throughout the development process. At the site level, it can inform the design process through identifying the landscape’s sensitivity and capacity for development, and ensuring the scale and character of the scheme responds to key site features. The Hertfordshire LCA web map can be accessed here.
The bullets below sets out a simple process for using the LCA to deliver design solutions which respond to landscape context, while maximising resources for wildlife.
Using and interpreting the LCA
- Identify which landscape character area the site falls within
- Review key characteristics and sensitivities of the character area
- Review the site’s natural and cultural features and how they contribute to the character of the area
- Review the landscape strategy for the character area
- Identify any specific guidelines that could be pursued on site such as features or views to conserve, enhancement measures, opportunities for restoration or green infrastructure.
a. Detailed design development to deliver and protect character
Detailed proposals should be supported by measures to safeguard the existing landscape character. Consideration should be given to a number of factors when designing the proposal such as existing buildings, existing views and wildlife. More information on what to consider when developing the design can be found in the following documents;
Climate Change Adaptation module
Building for Life 12
Urban Design Compendium
Manual for Streets
Green Infrastructure Audit
Biodiversity by Design
Trees in the Townscape – A Decision Makers Guide (TDAG)
A simplified example of design responding to existing features and site context
b. Mitigating adverse effects
Mitigation measures are more effective if they are designed as an integral part of the scheme. If consideration of mitigation measures is left until later in the scheme design, this can increase costs as early opportunities for avoidance are missed.
The 'Landscape Institute and Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s: Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment' includes principles on designing in mitigation to reduce impacts on landscape and visual amenity.
Mitigation may either be:
- Primary measures that intrinsically comprise the development design – i.e. buffer zones
- Secondary measures designed to specifically address the remaining (residual) negative or adverse impacts – i.e. creating new landforms
Mitigation measures can be reinforced by their adoption as conditions of approval, including as pre-commencement conditions (conditions that require compliance before development on site starts). Note: The long term protection of trees is best carried out by way of a TPO rather than by using a condition of a planning permission.
Limits of mitigation
Not all impacts can be mitigated and mitigation in itself can lead to problems with a development. Monitoring of a development is essential to overcome and identify unanticipated problems as they arise. Problems with mitigation include:
- Mitigation measures e.g. planting can take considerable time to become effective. Realistic growth rates must be applied. Semi-mature vegetation can be planted if screening needs to be effective immediately but must be carefully managed to avoid failure.
- Mitigation measures may only be effective on a seasonal basis e.g. planting with deciduous trees.
- Mitigation measures designed to overcome one adverse effect may give rise to other adverse effects e.g. planting can reduce openness or limit views to landmarks. This must be anticipated at the design stage.
- Mitigation measures can prove unfeasible to implement and the practicality of implementing these must be considered at the design stage through the identification of a suitable management plan. More information on this can be found in Stage 5 Design implementation and Management plans
A standard hierarchy of mitigation measures is outlined below:
Avoidance is the preferred mitigation method and can be achieved through careful site selection, siting and innovative design
Reduction of impacts of development on the landscape can be achieved by setting the development into the ground and the implementation of sensitive design through the creation of new landforms
Remediation should only be used where either Avoidance or Reduction cannot be achieved. It can be achieved through cosmetic measures such as screening and re-planting of native species.
Compensation should only be considered as a last resort and only be used where impacts cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level.
A robust assessment of the nature, value and extent of the resource that would be lost is required at the outset of the planning process so that lost features can be replaced appropriately. In many cases, true compensation is unlikely to be possible, e.g. new woodland may replace mature woodland but is unlikely to compensate for the loss of established habitat.
Enhancement is always desirable and often used in conjunction with mitigation e.g. improved land management and the creation of new habitat areas.
Stage 4 Submission of applications
This section outlines what is likely to be required when submitting a planning application to a Local Planning Authority.
Planning applications should not be validated until it has been established whether a survey is required. It is not acceptable practice to resolve technical issues by way of condition. Outstanding issues should be resolved through scheme design, where possible. In order to achieve this, the validation process must be rigorous enough to ensure all information required is provided at the outset, before the application is assessed.
Checklists should be developed by Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to ensure that developers know what is required of them before they submit an application. An example checklist can be found in Section 6 of this module but its use as supporting evidence with individual planning applications should be agreed with LPAs on a case-by-case basis.
b. Outline planning, detailed planning, or reserved matters applications
Below is a list of information that may be required at different stages in the planning permission process:
- A soft landscape or planting plan(s) at an appropriate scale for the size of the site, based on survey information, showing proposed areas amenity/semi-natural green space, including proposed trees, shrubs, ground covers, grasses, native/ornamental planting, seed mixes, densities and plant quantities, size and grade of planting stock; specification notes, and details of existing vegetation to be retained and/or to be removed.
- Soft landscape plans should also give details of any grading or level changes and details of construction and planting of any water features or water bodies.
- A hard landscape plan(s) at an appropriate scale showing lighting, paving, surfacing materials, walls/railings, car parking arrangements and surfacing, playing surfaces, footpaths, cycleways, bridleways and roads, street furniture and drainage/falls. Supporting details and specification notes and details of underground services and constraints may also be necessary. Hard landscape plans should incorporate the use of appropriate surfacing and features as part of a SUDS management plan. Further information on the use of permeable surfacing is available from Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Hard landscape designs should also take into account the requirements of the Equality Act 2010. Access should also be considered more generally in terms of safety (e.g. the design requirements of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007)
- If appropriate to the project, a Method of Working, including details of site access and proposals for soil stripping/handling and storage. The method of working should complement any Mitigation Strategy.
- Accurate landscape specifications in accordance with the approved plans and in line with good practice to ensure successful planting and the continued health of trees and other retained elements on site.
- Landscape Management Plan, identifying tasks after completion to maintain and manage features, including details of tasks required and responsible parties. The plan should also identify who is responsible for adoption and the nature of the handover process e.g. timing, funding etc.
- Photomontages showing established screening and suitability of species proposed.
- Commitment to planning conditions for delivery and future management.
Stage 5 Implementation and management plans
Monitoring measures should be included in the management plan. Costs associated with routine and specialised monitoring should be met by the developer and form part of the management plan.
Construction and management planning
‘Enabling works’ such as tree and habitat protection fencing, must be in place before the start of work on site, and maintained throughout construction. The condition of these works should be monitored on a regular basis.
Contracts and contractors
Careful attention must be given to the implementation of the scheme, so that the development is delivered as proposed in the application.
Contractors are only as good as instructed and when contracted to perform specific tasks (although obviously they must be competent for the nature of the work). A detailed contract specification setting out the desired quality standards is a key requirement to ensure that the design is implemented as intended. These should be expertly administered and enforced through planning conditions.
The diagram below illustrates how construction should be carried out and monitored to ensure a scheme is implemented as intended.
If the works are of significant duration, it is advisable to obtain detailed cost proposals or a ‘tender price’ from a contractor before the work is commenced.
When appointing contractors, approach the professional body to see if there are any standard contract forms tailored to the works being delivered or to smaller schemes. The Joint Council for Landscape Industries has an example construction contract and supporting maintenance contract. The Joint Contracts Tribunal produces standard forms of contracts, guidance notes and other standard documentation for use in the construction industry that are available from their website.
More detailed information on what should be included in a management plan is included in the Solutions section of this module.