Landscape/ Visual Impact Assessment

What is a Visual/Landscape Impact Assessment?

A Visual/Landscape assessment is a comprehensive document that demonstrates how any proposed development will sit into its physical landscape. This is demonstrated though the preparation of photomontages, maps showing the extent over which the proposed development will be visible and if necessary a planning policy review demonstrating the suitability of the scheme within the provisions of the relevant Development Plan or Local Area Plan.

Why do I need a Visual/Landscape Impact Assessment?

With more and more areas being designated as sensitive landscapes, high amenity areas or scenic views requests for Visual or Landscape Impact Assessments are now common as part of planning applications for all forms of projects. These are carried out through the Environmental Impact Assessment process, however at increasing rates Local Authorities are requesting Visual/Landscape Impact Assessments for smaller applications within scenic areas or where the proposed development may occupy a dominant location within the local landscape. A Visual/Landscape Impact Assessment may be required following pre-planning consultation, a further information request or to demonstrate mitigation against a previous refusal reason for a particular development.

What is involved in a Visual/Landscape Impact Assessment?

The report typically contains a series of photomontages and a zone of visual influence map accompanied by written descriptions. A more comprehensive Visual Impact Assessment that includes a Planning Policy review of issues relevant to a proposed development and quantifying the landscape character of the area may be required for developments proposed in more visually sensitive areas or as part of Planning appeals. Visual Impact Assessments frequently accompany telecommunications applications and McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan has extensive experience in the preparation of Visual/Landscape Assessment reports for most of Ireland’s major telecommunications operators.

What is a photomontage?

A photomontage is the superimposition of an image onto a photograph in order to create a realistic representation of how the proposed structure will appear in the landscape. A series of photographs are usually taken in the area surrounding the site of the proposed development and then digitally edited in order to superimpose the image of the proposed tower onto them. The photomontages may take the form of individually numbered sheets, which can be referred to in a cover report, or if necessary form part of a full visual impact assessment report, and can be provided with or without inset maps showing the photo location, and panoramic photo panels showing the broader views from an area. If they are not requested at the pre-planning stage, photomontages commonly form part of further information requests from Planning Authorities. McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan have prepared such photomontages for almost every conceivable type of telecoms tower, for Ireland’s telecommunications operators, and have a wide experience in providing detailed visual studies for the developers of wind farms.

What is a Zone of Possible Visual Influence?

The area from within which a proposed development (e.g. Wind farm, Telecommunications tower) could be visible within is known as the zone of possible visual influence (ZPVI). The ZVPI is mapped to demonstrate visibility of the structure from the lands surrounding the site of the proposed development and from neighboring communities. The area covered during this part of a visual impact assessment can vary and is dependent on the nature of the proposed development and its location. Larger proposals at higher elevations will obviously be visible from wider visual catchments. The ZVI mapping process combines topographical contouring with ground proofing and CAD cross-sections through the landscape, to produce highly accurate maps to any scale. A ZVI map is produced in order to graphically represent the ZPVI and the area outside of this zone from which the proposed development will not be visible, known as the zone of visual non-influence (ZVNI). The ZVI mapping methodology can be applied to all types of tall developments, from wind turbines to large buildings. Due to our experience and the environmental and planning expertise available to McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan can identify and respond to
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