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South Downs Landscape Character Assessment

National Parks are a landscape designation. They are representative of the very best of UK landscapes in terms of their Natural Beauty, Wildlife and Cultural Heritage.

Landscape matters to people and contributes to our quality of life. It is a reason for the South Downs National Park’s designation and a principle ‘special quality.’

  • What do we mean by ‘landscape’?

    Landscapes are more than just attractive scenery – they tell a vivid story of how, for centuries, the natural environment and human settlements have influenced each other.

    Landscapes are not static and they can be greatly affected by changes in land use.

    In some cases the nature of this change has the potential to adversely affect the landscape and its associated special qualities.

    It is important that we are able to manage this change and maintain the unique character that defines the landscapes of the South Downs.

  • What is landscape character?

    In short, landscape character is:

    • Distinct, recognisable and consistent pattern of elements in the landscape
    • What makes one landscape different from another (rather than better or worse)

    An understanding of the character of the landscape is central to delivering our
    purposes and duty. It is important that the landscape is properly factored into decision making.

    Having an up-to-date Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is the primary means to achieve this.

    It provides a consistent way to identify, map and describe areas of distinctive landscape character.

  • What is a Landscape Character Assessment (LCA)?

    LCA is a tool for identifying and describing variation in landscape character. It helps us to:

    • Explain the unique combinations of elements and features
    • Understand and manage change within the landscape
    • Makes sure landscape qualities and variation are recognised and taken account of in decision making.

    A Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) highlights distinct and recognisable patterns of elements  that occur within the landscape.

    It establishes a typology of landscape character types and areas across the National Park.

    It also describes key characteristics and considers some of the sensitivities to change that may exist  within these specific Landscape Character Areas.

    The value in Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is when it can be readily and easily used by everyone.

  • Who should be using it?
    • Planners
    • Development Managers
    • Householders
    • Landowners, developers and their advisors
    • Land managers (farming, forestry, recreation, historic environment, climate change)
    • Schools and students
    • Community groups and general public.
  • How has the South Downs Landscape Assessment Changed?

    The first LCA for the National Park area was produced in 2005, it was a detailed technical report with maps and annexes. It is described as an ‘Integrated’ LCA as it included Historic Landscape Character data as part of the assessment.

    The LCA was updated slightly in 2011 to include areas of landscape that had been added when the National Park was formally designated in 2009. It retained the same broad structure and classification of landscape types and areas.

    The 2020 update is more comprehensive, it has been developed as an on-line resource to make it more accessible and useable. There has been minor changes to the classification of landscape types and areas – with some areas now being covered in more detail.

    The descriptions within the 2020 update include more detail on specific characteristics and sensitivities. They also include a summary of the Ecosystem Services that are delivered within each landscape area.

    Links to the previous LCAs are included for reference, and are often helpful as a record of change over time. The 2020 update is the most up-to-date, and the one to use for the National Park area from now on.

    For areas outside of the National Park it is best to refer to the relevant County or District level Landscape Character Assessments. A list of the Local Authority pages is included here.