The Landscape Institute in evidence to the House of Lords’ National Policy for the Built Environment Committee has called for the greater use of National Character Areas (NCAs) to help guide the planning, design and delivery of housing, transport and infrastructure. Each of the 159 NCAs in England is defined by a unique combination of landscape, biodiversity, history, culture and economic activity and is the most effective scale of planning. Greater emphasis would ensure that future design and planning of the built environment was more responsive to its unique location and the wider rural hinterland.
Landscape is an integral part of the places where we live, relax and work. The built environment embraces the natural environment and our small and heavily populated island has a symbiotic relationship between the two.
National planning policy is currently failing because it has no spatial dimension. A spatial planning approach is necessary to align all policies that have an impact to achieve the ambitions set out in national planning policy.
Introducing National Character Areas would be the component currently lacking and would ensure that any proposed developments would be designed to fit in with the unique local landscape character. Their boundaries follow natural lines in the landscape, rather than artificial administrative boundaries. The strong local characteristics of both town and country are to be treasured and all development needs to pay special attention to conserving character and sense of place, this is what matters to everyone.
Noel Farrer, President of the Landscape Institute, said:
‘The country is facing a housing crisis and it is clear from research that improved design, provision of green space and involvement of local communities are key to overcoming local opposition to new housing. All three can be tackled by a landscape-led approach to housing development that considers and responds to local landscape character and delivers the numbers of houses we need. It is these distinctive variations in character that defines England’s Green and Pleasant Land and it is the quality of the local landscape that people really value.
‘By working with landscape from the very outset of any development, it is possible to achieve distinctive local character in housing developments and a public realm where communities can interact and thrive. At present, landscape is often an afterthought in the house building process and in order to ensure quality, local support and speed of acceptance it needs to take centre stage.’