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Landscape Character Assessment


Glossary of terms used in Landscape Character Assessment

Ancient Wooded Character

Wooded landscapes characterised by woodlands of mixed native broadleaved species with a varied age structure, often of ancient origin (as defined on the Ancient Woodland Inventory). The woodland pattern often displays clear signs of piecemeal woodland clearance, such as irregular woodland outlines, woodland place names etc.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

A statutory designation intended to conserve the natural scenic beauty of an area. Identified by the Countryside Commission (now Natural England) and administered by Local Authorities, or, in the case of the Cotswolds AONB, by a Conservation Board.


A parcel of land that has been assarted.


The act of clearing forested land for the purpose of agriculture or other purpose. Whereas waste of a forest involves felling trees and other shrubbery, this vegetation can grow again; assarting involves completely rooting up all trees - the total extirpation of the forested area.


The different ways in which an indicator (of landscape character) may be expressed in the landscape e.g. the indicator of settlement pattern may be unsettled, clustered, nucleated, wayside, dispersed or scattered.

Buffer Zone

An area or zone that helps to protect a habitat from damage, disturbance or pollution.

Characteristic Features

The presence of natural or heritage features that recur with sufficient frequency to be considered an integral part of the character of a particular landscape.


Plants which grow in crevices in rocks or rock faces.


The degree to which an attribute is recognisable and represented throughout the landscape.


A strip of land of a particular type that differs from the adjacent land on both sides (corridors have several important functions, including conduit, barrier and habitat).


Dominance of arable farming characterised by field vegetables and/or market gardening.

Discrete Woods

Separate and clearly defined blocks of woodland. Some linkage may be afforded by hedgerows.

Enclosure Pattern

The form of the cultural dimension of the landscape as defined by the inherent pattern of fields and lanes.


A water body with high nutrient levels, often a result of intensive agricultural production. Such water bodies are characterised by low dissolved oxygen levels, excessive algal blooms and a general poor water quality.

Exposed Spatial Character

Extensive areas, often unenclosed, where the lack of three dimensional elements allows wide, distant views which give a strong impression of sky and space.


Areas occurring on a wide variety of soil types that have been under mainstream cultivation for a long time and which lack the distinct relic plant communities that would have a significant contribution to landscape character.

Farm Type (Land Use)

The dominant type of farming enterprise that reflects the inherent capability of the land.

Field Boundaries

The physical boundaries defining the perimeter of agricultural fields.


The relevance, in today’s landscape, of the combination of factors which originally gave rise to a particular attribute - in other words, the degree to which an attribute has a function in today’s landscape.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

A computer facility that enables the layering of map based information.


See Tree Groups

Heath/Acid Grassland

Plant communities typically developed on free draining, nutrient poor soils. Indicator species may include gorse (Ulex), bracken (Pteridium), ling (Calluna), Purple heather (Erica cinerea). Localised areas of poor drainage may be present. Indicator species for these may include cross leaved heath (Erica tetralix) and rush (Juncus sp).

Heathy/Acid Grassland Relic

Remnants of former plant communities developed on free draining nutrient poor soils, now represented by a restricted range of indicator species - gorse or bracken usually found along roadsides or woodland edges.


A general category embracing hedgerows of single and mixed species composition.

Hedge and Ditch

As above, with associated man made dry or wet drainage channels.

Improved Grassland

Grassland communities that have a reduced floristic diversity due to the application of fertilisers or other added nutrients.

Indicative Ground Vegetation

Semi-natural plant communities (excluding woodland, scrub and hedges), reflecting the physiography of the areas and which visually contribute to the interpretation of the landscape character.


Specific characteristics that, in combination, make up landscape character. They can be divided into definitive indicators (those that define landscape character) and descriptive indicators (those that provide additional detailed description).

Definitive indicators - geology, topography, soils, settlement pattern, tree cover character, and land use.
Descriptive indicators - enclosure pattern, tree cover pattern, indicative ground vegetation, field boundaries, spatial character and additional special characteristic features.

Intimate Spatial Character

A landscape of restricted views where there is a consistently small field pattern (less than 4 hectares) and the close proximity of other elements creates a strong sense of enclosure.

Key Characteristics

Those attributes that are visually prominently and consistent throughout a particular Landscape Type, and are therefore most significant in its definition.

Land Cover Parcel (LCP)

These are the sub-landscape units arising from the subdivision of Landscape Description Units based on variations in modern land use and the historic patterns of field enclosure. They are the most homogenous of the range of landscape units, with least variation of attributes.


The human perception of the land at a scale that is smaller than the global environment but larger than the individual site.

Landscape Character

An expression of pattern, resulting from particular combinations of natural (physical and biological) and cultural factors that make one place different from another.

Landscape Character Assessment

An analysis of the character of the landscape based on predetermined objective criteria and characteristics. The process of landscape characterisation involves the classification and description of areas of homogeneous character in which the constituent elements occur in repeating patterns. It is an objective analysis, describing the components that make an area different from another, conveying an informed picture of the landscape but avoiding personal preference or valued judgements about the importance of one area relative to another.

Landscape Description Unit (LDU)

A Landscape Description Unit is a representation of a Landscape Type in a specific location. These are the basic building blocks of the landscape and are defined by a combination of six key characteristics relating to geology, topography, soils, tree cover character, land use and historic settlement pattern.

Landscape Type (LT)

Landscape Types are areas that are visually different from one another, those differences being defined by a particular combination of characteristics.

Land Use

See Farm Type.

Large Spatial Character

Open areas usually with a large scale enclosure pattern (field size consistently greater than 8 hectares). The pattern is defined by field boundaries and/or other three dimensional elements such as woodland.

Linear Tree Cover Pattern

Areas where the tree cover is characterised by lines of trees or narrow bands of woodland normally associated with streams, ditches or other linear water features.

Linked/Interlocking Tree Cover Pattern

Frequent woodland blocks and/or wooded corridors forming physically or visually linking patterns, creating the impression of a heavily wooded landscape.


Land, usually level and low-lying, devoted to grasses and short herbs, which is mown annually for hay.

Medium-framed Spatial Character

Areas with medium to large sized fields, (consistently greater than 4 hectares), where views are typically framed by discrete blocks of woodland or lines of trees.

Medium-open Spatial Character

Open landscapes with a medium scale enclosure pattern (field size consistently greater than 4 hectares) defined by field boundaries and/or other three dimensional elements.


Habitats with low nutrient levels.


Habitats (water bodies, grasslands) with moderate nutrient levels - greater than oligotrophic but less than eutrophic


Measures taken to reduce adverse impacts e.g. the provision of suitable planting to screen a development.

Mixed Land Use

Farming enterprises that have a mix of both arable and pasture land uses.


(Organisms) preferring a nutrient rich environment.


Water or soils with very low nutrient levels. Oligotrophic water bodies are characterised by high dissolved oxygen levels, low algal production and a general high water quality.

Organic Enclosure Pattern

An irregular enclosure pattern, often the result of direct piece-meal clearance of woodland, and associated with an irregular network of winding lanes.


An area of grassland characterised by groups and/or individual mature trees usually associated with a castle or large country house. Ornamental planting, lodges, lakes etc. are frequent associated features.


Grassland landscapes characterised by grazing animals associated with dairying and/or stock rearing.


An area of land dominated by grass, which is used only for grazing, as distinct from a meadow that is mown.

Planned Enclosure Pattern

An ordered pattern of lanes and rectilinear fields with mainly straight boundaries.

Planned Woodland Character

Wooded landscapes characterised by estate plantations and/or belts or trees with regular outlines, a predominantly even age structure and a limited range of non-ornamental native or exotic species.


Trees with branches regularly cut off at a height of between 2-3 metres.

Regional Character Areas

Extensive, individual areas at a broad-brush, regional scale that are identified by description.


The degree in which it is possible to replace an element in its original form, reflecting the time it would take to replace an element and the degree to which it can be replaced on a like-for-like basis.


Resilience provides a measure of the endurance of landscape character, defined by the likelihood of change in relation to the degree to which the landscape is able to tolerate that change (replaceability). Resilience reflects the significance, trend, vulnerability and replaceability of the various attributes within a given Landscape type.


The interface between land and a flowing surface water body - typically pertaining to, or on, a river bank.

Rough Grazing

Land use characterised by low intensity grazing of rough pasture associated with poor soils.

Scattered Tree Cover Pattern

Pattern defined by densely or thinly scattered trees most often associated with hedgerows, together with watercourses and fields.

Scattered Settlement Pattern

A very low dispersal of individual farmsteads and rural dwellings.


The sensitivity of a given area of landscape represents the resilience of the attributes of that landscape, combined with a measure of their condition. In other words, sensitivity reflects the actual resilience of a given area of landscape, by relating the generic resilience of that landscape to the degree to which its inherent character is present, reflected through the measure of condition of that landscape.


The significance of an attribute is defined as the degree to which that attribute contributes to the overall character of a landscape, and is represented as a combination of its consistency, in terms of its presence and pattern, and its visual prominence in that landscape. Attributes can be classed as being of either primary, secondary or tertiary significance.

Small Spatial Character

A landscape of small- to medium-sized fields (field size consistently less than 4 hectares) where scattered trees and/or small woods and copses create filtered views.

Spatial Character

The visual perception of spatial character as defined by the combination of open spaces, views and elements that make up the landscape.

Sub-regular Enclosure Pattern

An interlocking, regular pattern of fields and lanes with curving boundaries.

Tree Cover

Relates to the overall cover of individual trees and/or woodland of an area.

Tree Cover Character

Relates to the origin and overall composition of tree and woodland cover.

Tree Cover Pattern

Relates to the spatial juxtaposition of individual trees and woodland cover and the shapes of woodlands.


Landscapes in which trees rather than woodland comprise the dominant visual element of tree cover.

Tree Groups

Areas where the pattern of tree cover is solely characterised by discrete groups and/or small assemblages of trees, usually associated with farmsteads and or rural settlements

Trend (in relation to attributes)

A prediction of the likelihood of an attribute changing in the future, based on analysis of recent and present day change.


Open, usually rough mountain, marsh or common grazing land.

Unimproved Grassland

Grassland with plant communities that have not been affected by the application of fertilisers or other significant additions of nutrients.


Areas where tree cover is virtually absent. These are areas in which past and present management practices have generally precluded the establishment of tree cover. The regeneration of tree cover may be evident if management practices are removed or reduced. Elsewhere poor soil depth or accumulations of peat may inhibit tree growth today.

Veteran Tree

An ancient, or veteran, tree is one that has reached a great age and size compared to others of the same species, or that shows characteristic veteran features such as hollowing and fungal rot, cracks and cavities in the trunk, or retraction of the canopy (often leaving bare stag-headed branches). Different species of tree grow and age at different rates and will therefore become ancient at different stages of their lifespan. They have huge interest historically, culturally and ecologically.

Visual Prominence

The degree to which the defined attribute is visually prominent in the landscape.


The likelihood of change to or loss of an attribute, reflected as a measure of the degree to which an attribute has a role to play (i.e. maintains a function) in the landscape.


An area of land with plant communities associated with seasonally or permanently waterlogged soils. Indicators species may include rush or common reed (Phragmites).