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 sensitivity studies

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

Landscape sensitivity, in the context of spatial planning and land management, is a measure of the resilience, or robustness, of a landscape to accommodate change arising from specified development types or land management practices. Landscape sensitivity assessment provides an indication of this resilience. The findings are strategic and indicative in contrast to site- and project-specific Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment.

How to do it

Any landscape sensitivity study is based on a detailed Landscape Character Assessment.

In 2019, Natural England published “An Approach to Landscape Sensitivity Assessment”.  Natural Resources Wales and NatureScot are preparing separate guidance documents for Wales and Scotland on similar lines: the Scottish draft is now out for consultation until 8th September 2020.

Consultation on draft guidance on Landscape Sensitivity Assessment

The guidance builds on techniques from the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) Guidance Topic Paper 6 of 2002 and NatureScot research on good practice in 2010. This led to a web-based toolkit on how to commission an assessment, often called landscape “capacity” studies.  Although the 2010 research noted that this was usually seen as an inaccurate term, because they generally identified sensitivity rather than capacity, its use has continued because many aspects of the toolkit remained valid. 

Read guidance on commissioning a landscape sensitivity study

Read research on good practice for landscape sensitivity studies in Scotland

Onshore wind energy landscape sensitivity studies

NatureScot has worked with several planning authorities in Scotland to produce landscape sensitivity studies to help identify landscape sensitivity for further wind energy.  The studies help to guide our advice as a consultee on the landscape and visual aspects of new planning applications for wind turbines. They can 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.

Examples of landscape sensitivity studies


Renewable energy

Seascape studies

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