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 sensitivity 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.

Sensitivity 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 sensitivity studies are often used to inform the allocation of development sites in development plans.

How to do it

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

Landscape sensitivity assessment can determine the capacity for specific types of development or land-use change, e.g. 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 we are using the term "landscape sensitivity" to refer to landscape studies that assesses a landscape's susceptibility to a particular type of development. This reflects the requirements of GLVIA3: i.e. an assessment of 'sensitivity' to a development type that does not take landscape value(s) into account. We have moved away from the previously used term "landscape capacity study".

Onshore wind energy landscape sensitivity studies

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

  • identify landscape sensitivity for further wind energy
  • fulfill 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.

Examples of landscape sensitivity studies


Renewable energy

Seascape studies