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Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment – A Dark Art

Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) has been described as a dark art; the assessor is required to make fine judgements about the impact of the proposed development, and these judgements in turn, can influence the final outcome of the assessment.

But what about when LVIA literally is a dark art? James and Louise from our strategic landscape team recently had to carry out a visual assessment under the cover of darkness. Initial baseline assessment work for the site determined that the development could have a visual impact on the surrounding area at night time due to its location and proposed lighting. The client, who was keen to ensure that all effects were fully understood and analysed, asked James Blake Associates to add a night time assessment to their scope of works.

James explained, “The night time LVIA work presented additional challenges in terms of framing the view. Guidelines state that the proposed development should be positioned in the centre of the frame, but this was extremely difficult in the dark! The night time assessment encouraged me to think about, not just the impact of the built form itself, but all of the associated infrastructure including utilities and lighting. The night time LVIA process is very similar to the daylight process. We revisit a selection of viewpoints just after dusk and photograph the scene using the same equipment as daytime, but with the camera settings slightly adjusted to allow for the decrease in light levels. We then present the images alongside each other to allow direct comparison”.

Night time LVIA work is becoming a more frequent request from local authorities, particularly within sensitive landscapes. The importance of Dark Landscapes is also increasingly recognised in terms of the effects of lighting on the character of an area and views as well as for ecological reasons.

If you are embarking on a project within a sensitive area such as Green Belt, AONB or near protected wildlife sites then it may be worth investing in a night time LVIA. Please call our Strategic Landscape  team on 01787 248216 to discuss your project, and we will be happy to advise on whether an LVIA could save you time and money.

Strategic Landscape