Character Assessment in Northern Ireland.
part of the countryside has its own particular assets and its
own value to the local people.
Each area has its own identity and it is only
through people recognising that identity of local areas
that, they come to appreciate and understand their
have been asked to give you an update on the landscape character
assessment that is going on in
and also to refer to the legislative framework position for
I spoke to you three years ago about our great variety of landscapes
, I said that they are far better than you have down here.
I would always say that we have in
paid far too much attention to recognising scenic landscapes, just
by way of areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and just
designating them as such. Recognising
scenic landscapes and designating them as such but not really paying
enough attention to managing them
in our review of our AONBs we came to recognise that what we should
be paying far more attention to was local landscape character areas
and effectively taking all of the countryside on board, not just
areas of outstanding natural beauty, because beauty is only one
aspect or only one of the assets of the countryside.
Every part of the countryside has its own particular assets
and its own value to the local people.
Each area has its own identity and it is only through people
recognising that identity of local areas that we come to appreciate
and understand their landscape.
that is the process through which
we are now working towards good effective landscape
way of background I would note that we commenced the process with
the Mourne AONB where we recognised local landscape character areas
within it, then we took
, and recognised sixteen local landscape character areas within it.
Then we got those local landscape character areas
incorporated and recognised within the area plan and policies
attached to them, particularly tourism policies.
began to explore how we could use local landscape character areas,
not just recognising them, but rather to see how we could get them
used in policy formulation by government bodies.
, but we looked there at the local landscape character types more so
than landscape character areas, but found that landscape types
approach was not satisfactory, because it was not recognising
sufficiently the local identity of particular areas.
when we looked at Belfast City Region, we looked at local landscape
character areas throughout the region.
we are bringing all that together, for all of
and we have come up with some
130 local landscape character areas for
they must mean something to local people, we are trying to name them
because local communities have a very strong sense of attachment to
every local landscape character area otherwise it has not been
recognised properly and that has been our approach.
that process we have now just produced the leaflet, which is
available here today. We will also publish and make available
documents relating to each district council area so that we will
have 24 documents indicating local landscape character within those
districts, and as well as looking at dividing those districts into
their local landscape character areas we have done a landscape
analysis of the districts. The
analysis must pick up key features, such as areas of local scenic
value, prominent scarp slopes, critical green wedges and all sorts
of features within the countryside. We are trying to pick up all the
critical features within the countryside that we think should be
recognised in the area plans.
process was applied throughout the countryside within
. But then even more
critically, we have also looked at the setting of settlements within
Northern Ireland, we have looked at virtually every small settlement
in Northern Ireland, and asked what is critical to the setting of
that town - is there a critical woodland or what is there, what is
the pattern of growth and the setting of that particular town,
because really if we don't pick up those kind of landscape area
nuances that should be influencing growth, then we don't think we
will be successful in trying to influence planners.
is all in the process of being published and as I have said there
will be roughly twenty four documents by the end of this year
together with an overview document.
can give you the main comments from the Belfast City Region, but
our next challenge is how to integrate our assessment into
the management process.
at present a regional strategy
is being prepared and we are advocating that it should not just
recognise habitats directives and so on, we are saying that
landscapes must be recognised, we must get landscape assessment
recognised within the regional strategy, and again within the area
within the area plans there is a planning policy statement which
says that for every area plan there must be an appraisal of
landscape assessment, there must as well be an appraisal of the
setting of all the towns and there must be an appraisal of the
pressures in the landscape and all of that must be put together in
judging how you influence the growth of settlements.
the work we are doing, on all of this landscape survey work is
already being blended into the area plans and the regional strategy.
So that is an early product of our work.
course the regional strategy is only a draft document and we have
some 108 new Assembly members who might turn it upside down in the
next few weeks or months. We
will have to see how that is taken forward, but already we do have
all of these policy statements, which are really influencing the
preparation of development plans.
main conclusions of the study in Northern Ireland were that the key
features that are affecting the countryside and the landscapes of
Northern Ireland are: - the impact of new buildings, the loss of the
distinctive settings of settlements, the direction of growth is
being lost, the erosion of distinctive rural landscape patterns and
features, the impact of infrastructural developments and
improvements, pressures for tourism and other recreational
developments, the neglect of public open space; damage to the
setting of historic monuments and archaeological sites and the
threat to semi-natural habitats.
is a summary of the threats, which we observed in the course of
carrying out the landscape survey.
now have a wealth of material and information on our landscape,
which we hope will guide future policy and development plan
Q & A Session
It wasn't clear in your presentation how much public
consultation took place in the management strategies.
On Saturday of this week I will be talking to all of the
community groups in
, the community groups were consulted during the area plan stage.
What we are producing is a subdivision of the countryside and
this landscape analysis, but that landscape analysis and
sub-division has to be taken forward into area plans and it's
through that process that the public are consulted.
But at the same time the community groups within
(and we have a lot of them) have also pressurised the planning
services through acceptance of what we have done to actually amend
plans as a result. So it
has been a two-way process.
Unattributed: How did
you manage to gather the data?
Some of this we did ourselves in-house and for much of the rest we
methodology did you use to distinguish the various landscapes?
In local areas for example we judged where the drumlin countryside,
where the hill countryside occurred – using topographical or
geological data and looking at all the features of the countryside,
using information on nature conservation and historical features and
surveying the landscape from particular points throughout the
countryside and making up our survey analysis sheets on that basis.
Do I understand that the
local people agreed with your definitions/distinctions and the
divisions you decided on the basis you describe?
The local people had no problems whatsoever.
When we took the Mournes for instance, and the Fermanagh
through the Area Plan stage there was no problem.
People accepted that we had drawn the correct areas.
How many landscape areas are there in the Mournes?
Seven or eight, if I remember correctly. Obviously stone wall
countryside in one area, the high Mourne peaks in another area,
hedge countryside and so on, so you had very distinct differences.
In Fermanagh you had parklands in some areas and in other
areas you had limestone topography and so on.
So there were quite distinct differences which local people
methodology that we used is a standard method for landscape
assessment, which has been accepted by the Countryside Commission in
, which is also being used in
I was wondering how much regard was given to past landscape
use in defining present landscape character - how people have dwelt
and lived in landscapes before -
was that used as a factor in determining landscape character.
Because it seems to me that what are in fact coherent landscape
systems or ways of living from the valley bottoms up to the hillside
are being separated and defined as very different, when in fact they
have been used as exactly the same for centuries – they are part
of one way of living – they are not separate entities.
The first thing you have to do is to understand the landscape
and to understand each landscape we need to get the archaeological,
the geological, nature conservation and other information.
The problem is that it is all being separated out and you are
trying to understand all these separate entities, and not the
They are put together as the overall character area which you see
today, because you have to understand the processes that they have
been undergone, which have influenced the landscape that you see
today. I am not sure if that answered your question.
To add to the discussion on boundaries of character areas or
the subdivisions, a lot of energy goes into wondering, if the
bio-regions and biotopes and indeed county boundaries perhaps
(though not as likely), but certainly newspaper distribution areas
and so on, all these different regional subdivisions, if overlaid on
one another, I wonder if they will actually cohere in the future.
We have paid no attention to any administrative or other
boundaries, local landscape character areas cross boundaries, and
another very interesting thing we found was that towns are generally
at the junction of several landscape character areas and each local
landscape character area generally has a community that is attached
to it. Those are two significant features that became apparent
from our work.
This is not directed to Joyce, but is in response to a
comment in an earlier discussion, I would like to make everyone
aware that Teagasc do have trained personnel in landscape
horticulture. I work on the Horticultural course at the Botanic
Gardens, and both myself, and a colleague at ‘An Grianan’
college deliver courses on landscape design.
Joyce McCormick is a Geographer and professional Town Planner,
specialising in rural planning, she has had a varied career in both
the Planning and Environment Services as well as in Local
“We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening –
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Seamus Heaney Bogland