Dundee Law and the River Tay from Newport, Tayside and Clackmannanshire Area. ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

Landscape capacity study

This approach assesses a landscape’s sensitivity and capacity to accept a particular type of change or development without significant effects on its character.

Landscape sensitivity depends on the type, nature and magnitude of the proposed change as well as on the landscape’s characteristics. High sensitivity indicates a landscape vulnerable to the change and vice versa.

Landscape capacity is the extent to which a particular landscape type is able to accept a specific kind of change (e.g. mining, forestry, wind farms) without significant effects on its character.

Capacity will depend on landscape sensitivity. This relates to the degree to which landscape character is either vulnerable to change, or robust enough to persist and to bounce back from loss or damage.

Capacity is usually expressed in relative terms, as greater levels of a specific change increasingly and cumulatively affect landscape character – ultimately altering it into a different character. For example, more and more housing development will eventually change a rural landscape into a built landscape.

Landscape capacity studies are often used to inform the allocation of development sites in development plans.

How to do it

Any landscape capacity study is based on a detailed Landscape Character Assessment done at a regional, local or site scale.

Landscape capacity assessment can determine the capacity for specific types of development or land-use change, e.g. wind farms or forestry. At a local scale, it can identify development capacity thresholds, development opportunities and constraints.

Our Landscape Capacity Study Toolkit can help you at the planning stage, as can our review and guide to good practice for landscape capacity studies.

Read A Guide to Commissioning a Landscape Capacity Study

Read Landscape Capacity Studies in Scotland – a review and guide to good practice: SNH Commissioned Report No. 385

Sensitivity / Susceptibility / Capacity

In Scotland the terms "landscape capacity" or "landscape sensitivity" are often used interchangeably to refer to landscape studies that assesses a landscape's susceptibility to a particular type of development.  This is a legacy of the early evolution of this work and how it was recognised in the wording of early planning guidance.   We intend to continue using the term "landscape capacity study" for continuity and ease of understanding, but will be clear via introductory links or in other text that "susceptibility" would be a more correct description that reflects the terms of GLVIA3: i.e. an assessment of 'sensitivity' to a development type that does not take landscape value(s) into account.

Onshore wind energy landscape capacity studies

Scottish Natural Heritage has worked with several planning authorities in Scotland to produce landscape capacity studies to help to both:

  • identify landscape capacity for further wind energy
  • fulfil Scottish Planning Policy requirements

The studies help to guide our advice as a consultee on the landscape and visual aspects of new planning applications for wind turbines. They also inform planning policy in the relevant planning authority areas.

Such studies only look at the landscape and visual aspects of wind energy development. You can see some examples below.

Example landscape capacity studies


Renewable energy

Seascape studies