Landscape sensitivity studies

This approach assesses a landscape’s resilience to specified types of change.

Landscape sensitivity is a measure of the ability of a landscape to accommodate change arising from specified types of development or land management.  It combines judgements of the susceptibility of the landscape to change and the values attached to the landscape.  Landscape sensitivity assessment provides an indication of this sensitivity.  It does so in a manner which is robust, repeatable and capable of standing up to scrutiny.  The findings are strategic and indicative, in contrast to site- and project-specific Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment.  

How to do it

NatureScot has produced Landscape Sensitivity Assessment Guidance (2022).  In addition to this methodology guidance, there is companion guidance on Commissioning a Landscape Sensitivity Assessment.  Both html and pdf versions are available from these links. 

The guidance is in line with the equivalent guides for England (2019) and Wales (due 2022). 

The NatureScot 2022 guidance documents supersede the previous draft guidance and the 2010 toolkit on commissioning a sensitivity study. 

Onshore wind energy landscape sensitivity studies

NatureScot has worked with several planning authorities in Scotland to produce landscape sensitivity studies for wind energy. These strategic studies should help to inform site selection and the assessment of the landscape and visual aspects of individual planning applications for wind turbines.

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

Wind energy studies should not be referred to as ‘capacity studies’ as no local or regional targets are available on which to determine the ‘capacity’ for development. Landscape Sensitivity Assessments should reflect their purpose, which is to provide a strategic assessment of relative landscape and visual sensitivity to certain defined forms of development. 

Where studies are updated and the name is changed to ‘sensitivity assessment’ it may be necessary to update references to the amended version where relevant. Sensitivity assessments are technical studies and as such should be used to inform the preparation of Development Plans and their policies.

Examples of landscape sensitivity studies


Renewable energy


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