Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC)

Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service has been commissioned to undertake the Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) of Worcestershire.  Part of  Historic England’s national programme of Historic Landscape Characterisation, this exciting two year project is jointly funded by English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council.

The Worcestershire HLC project aims to improve our understanding of the County’s landscape, and provide a context for its archaeological sites and monuments.  HLC will also provide a framework for informed landscape management strategies, spatial planning, development control and conservation issues at a local, regional and national level.  It will underpin historic environment advice given to district councils and other environment or conservation agencies (such as Natural England and the Forestry Commission), enabling future changes within the historic environment to be monitored.

The Worcestershire HLC is accessible via an interactive map browser and is fully integrated with the Worcestershire Historic Environment Record.

The HLC project report can be downloaded from the Online Archaeology Library or use the link below:

Download the Historic Landscape Characterisation Report

Applications of Historic Landscape Characterisation

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Spatial Planning & Development Control

Integration of HLC into the planning process aims to encourage adequate provision is made to avoid development which strongly contradicts and therefore degrades local landscape character and distinctiveness. The preservation and enhancement of Worcestershire's historic environment cannot be achieved solely through the protection of individual sites, monuments and localities: the importance of their immediate and broader landscape settings must be considered.

HLC can be utilised as a tool through which to approach a broader understanding and appreciation of the significance of local setting and distinctiveness during the planning process. Worcestershire's HLC can be applied to numerous areas of urban and rural landscape development and management, including:

  • Managing urban expansion and redevelopment:
    • Managing the development of rural or urban-fringe landscapes;
    • Informing locally appropriate urban design;
    • Informing locally appropriate structural design and form;
    • Identifying the potential impact of urban redevelopment on local character and distinctiveness.
  • Informing and managing the development or alteration of the countryside and rural environment, including:
    • Alterations to public access to the rural environment;
    • Woodland expansion, alteration or management;
    • Hedgerow removal or restoration;
    • Biodiversity and habitat creation, alteration or management.

HLC is also being used as a framework for the development of new projects aimed at ensuring local historic character is appropriately considered during development. The Historic Farmsteads Characterisation Project aims to develop a better understanding of Worcestershire's farmsteads character, survival and current use, facilitating more informed and appropriate management, restoration and/or redevelopment. The Worcestershire Villages Historic Environment Resource Assessment is a pilot initiative aimed at developing a methodology through which to produce a comprehensive record and understanding of the form and significance of the local historic character of small rural settlements, many of which are highly sensitive to inappropriate development. This evidence base will be used to discourage development that may contradict, and consequently weaken local distinctiveness and historic character, while facilitating that which works to their benefit and adheres to the tenants of respective Neighbourhood Plans.


HLC can be an extremely valuable research tool through the provision of maps and data which can be analysed and interrogated for a wide range of research topics and agendas. HLC could be used to:

  • Provide a broader understanding of historic individuals, groups and events – mapping the landscapes in which they existed or occurred;
  • Identify gaps in our knowledge - highlighting where further research may prove most beneficial towards the expansion of our understanding of the past;
  • Identify areas of high archaeological potential, the investigation of which may greatly enhance our record and management of the historic environment.
  • Perform analysis of the historic landscape - identifying correlations, patterns and relationships between landscape form and particular monument types or localities;
  • Contextualise the research of a site or monument - encouraging and establishing a deeper understanding of archaeological sites and heritage assets relative to their contemporary landscapes;

Rural Landscape Management and Stewardship

HLC can be used highly effectively within landscape management and stewardship schemes. Alongside holistically mapping landscape character, the attributes associated to each character type allow for a much deeper appreciation of the form and condition of historic environmental features such as archaeological monuments, field boundaries, hedgerows, orchards, ponds, and woodlands. This increased capacity to understand the form and condition of the rural environment at a landscape scale is of great benefit to agri-environmental schemes such as Environmental Stewardships, Landscape and Conservation Management Plans and English Woodland Grant Schemes, and forms a core tenant of the advice provided by the Historic Environment Countryside Advisory Services (HECAS).

Landscape Character Assessment

Landscape characterisation is an increasingly recognised and utilised tool for assessing and managing both the natural and man-made environment at a variety of scales. Examining character allows for an appreciation of the relative sensitivities and opportunities within a landscape. When undertaking Landscape Character Assessments it is vital to consider the historic dimensions of the area in question. The entirety of Worcestershire's landscape is the product of millennia of human activity, and HLC provides the framework within which to consider how these historical processes have shaped the modern environment. The use of HLC within Landscape Character Assessments therefore ensures the archaeological, historical and cultural components of a landscape are adequately considered, alongside providing a much deeper understanding with which to inform landscape management strategy.

Find out more

For more information or advice on the potential applications of HLC please contact the Historic Environment Countryside Advisory Service.