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Devon’s landscape character assessment (DLCA)

Devon’s landscape character assessment (DLCA) describes the variations in character between different areas and types of landscape in the county. It provides an evidence base for local development frameworks and plans, articulating what people perceive as distinctive and special about all landscapes in Devon. It also set out strategies and guidelines for the protection, management and planning of the landscape.

A map of landscape character types that covers the geographical county of Devon (excluding Exmoor National Park) is now available. The map merges together the maps produced by each Devon planning authority as part of its local stage 2 landscape character assessment. Preparation of the map has involved collaborative working between officers of neighbouring authorities and Devon County Council through the Devon Landscape Policy Group.

Work has focused on ironing out inconsistencies across administrative boundaries and ensuring a consistent naming and numbering system based on a shared Menu and key characteristics of Landscape Character Types in Devon, including Seascapes.

The map will allow each planning authority to update their landscape character assessment evidence base to achieve full cross-boundary consistency.

For GIS users: Use the links below to download a shapefile of the most up-to-date versions of the Devon-wide landscape character assessment maps:

What information does the DLCA contain?

Devon has been divided into unique geographical areas sharing similar character and recognisable at different scales:

  • How to use DLCA
  • How was the DLCA created?

    The DLCA follows nationally recognised guidelines, and was undertaken in three stages following the Living Landscape Methodology devised for Devon by Diacono Associates:

    Stage 1 was completed as a County-wide study, and involved a desk study to identify ‘Land Description Units’. These are the smallest landscape areas of common character, based on geographical information including geology, landform, vegetation and land use.

    Stage 2 was completed by individual District Councils, AONB areas and Dartmoor National Park. It involved field survey work verifying findings from the desk study and resulted in the identification of ‘Landscape Character Types’ occurring in Devon.

    Stage 3 was completed as a County-wide study. This identified Devon Character Areas to give an overview of the landscape as a whole, building on an understanding of the constituent Landscape Character Types and Land Description Units. This involved an iterative process of familiarisation, desk study and field survey, followed by classification and description. Stakeholder engagement was carried out with the Devon Landscape Policy Group, workshops were held and the public provided online input. The final Devon Character Areas and profiles were then produced. It drew on the findings of stage 2 to identify ‘Devon Character Areas’. Each area has a written profile.

  • How do Devon Character Areas, Landscape Character Types and National Character Areas relate to each other?

    ndaonb-lca-imageThese layers of landscape classification nest together like Russian dolls. The smallest units, ‘Land Description Units’ were defined first, and used to identify Landscape Character Types. Some planning authorities still use Landscape Description Units as part of their LCA evidence while others do not. Once generic Landscape Character Types had been defined and mapped throughout Devon by individual planning authorities, these were grouped into geographically unique Devon Character Areas that have their own particular identity as a whole landscape. Therefore, a distinct Devon landscape such as the Hartland Peninsula comprises a number of different generic Landscape Character Types such as Cliffs, Coastal Open Plateaux, Coastal Slopes and Combes, and Secluded Valleys.

    The written profiles for Landscape Character Types highlight key characteristics of the generic landscape type, whereas those of the Devon Character Areas highlight the distinct and unique characteristics of the area. Devon Character Areas give emphasis to local identity e.g. landmarks, and to visual and perceptual influences e.g. scenic and special qualities. As well as the descriptive elements, both of these data ‘layers’ set out strategies and guidelines aimed at protecting and managing what makes the landscape distinctive and special, as well as planning positively for landscape change as part of sustainable development. This is consistent with the National methodology for Landscape Character Assessment published by The Countryside Agency in 2002 (now Natural England). Those guidelines written in the latter stages of Devon’s LCA programme, including the Devon Character Area profiles, are compliant with the European Landscape Convention, having been the subject of public participation and stakeholder workshops across Devon. Together, these datasets provide a finer grain of detail to the National Character Areas used by Natural England as the spatial framework for their work.

    We support both Devon Character Areas and Landscape Character Types being referred to when describing Devon’s landscape character. For example, the location of a site can be described using both e.g. ‘The site is in a Secluded Valley (Landscape Character Type) of the Hartland Peninsula (Devon Character Area)’.

  • How does the DLCA relate to the National Character Areas?

    The DLCA is more detailed than the National Character Areas Assessment. However it has been developed in such a way as to be consistent with that Assessment. Links to the national profiles and integrated objectives are provided. The Devon Character Areas give a more precise indication of where key changes in landscape character occur at a County scale.

  • What are Devon Character Areas?

    Devon Character Areas are unique, geographically-specific areas of landscape. Each Devon Character Area has an individual identity but most Areas comprise a number of different Landscape Character Types. Devon Character Areas are called by a specific place name e.g. ‘High Dartmoor North’.

  • What are the Devon Landscape Character Types?

    The Devon Landscape Character Types are generic landscapes that share similar characteristics but may occur in different parts of Devon. Landscape Character Types allow different landscapes to be compared. Landscape Character Types are called by a descriptive name e.g. ‘Wooded ridges and hilltops’.

  • What are Land Description Units?

    Land Description Units or LDUs are the building blocks of the characterisation process. Through desk study mapping using GIS, they are defined by overlaying published data that describes the landscape according to the following natural and cultural attributes:

    • Physiography – the geology and landform;
    • Ground Type – the soils;
    • Landcover – vegetation and settlement;
    • Cultural Pattern – settlement form and pattern and farm type

    The Devon-wide Landscape Character Assessment process used a ‘bottom up’ approach, beginning with the desk-based derivation of Land Description Units (LDUs) carried out for the County of Devon in 2006. LDUs form a factual basis for the identification of broader, more descriptive, Landscape Character Types and Character Areas.

  • What are National Character Areas?

    National Character Areas are broadly similar areas of landscape defined at a national scale. There are 159 National Character Areas in England. Character descriptions for each of the NCAs were produced in the 1990s and published in regional volumes to highlight the influences determining the character of the landscape, for example land cover, buildings and settlements. Natural England is currently working to update the NCA profiles and develop objectives for their future management.

  • How does the DLCA relate to Historic Landscape Characterisation?

    The Devon Character Areas provide a summary of the historic landscape of each area. It is essential to refer to the Historic Landscape Characterisation for a more detailed understanding of the historic landscape. The Devon Historic Landscape Characterisation was a key reference dataset in the production of the DLCA.