Plans are viewed in two dimensions (2D) but increasingly visual presentations are being prepared in three dimensions – 3D. We use Sketch-Up Pro and various render packages to bring 2D designs to life. It can be a quick and cost effective way to get a better idea of how a project will look from any angle. This forms the basis for visualisations and photomontages.Top of page.
3D models are now an everyday tool within the practice and can be a quick and cost effective way to get a better idea of how a project will look from any angle. Models are generally created in Sketch-Up Pro and can be combined with Photoshop or specialist 3D rendering packages such as V-ray to create photo realistic visualisations and photomontages. A selection of our 3D visualisations can be found here.Top of page.
After implementation on site by a contractor, landscape projects require a period of aftercare which is also called the establishment period or maintenance works. Hard landscape, walls, paths, fences, etc may not always be part of the aftercare but will be subject to a 12-month rectification period when any defects have to be remedied. Aftercare usually applies to soft landscape work, such as grass and planting. Sowing seed and planting a young plant is just the beginning; to establish a soft landscape to maturity needs appropriate horticultural attention to encourage strong root development and healthy top growth. A contractor will be responsible for making regular visits to weed, prune, mow, water and care for the newly establishing grass and plants for a minimum of a year and up to five years. Each year a dead count is taken and all the plants that fail to thrive will be replaced. Grass that fails to establish will be reseeded until a satisfactory sward is established. At the end of the aftercare period, the site is handed over to the client who will take over the maintenance. A management plan will set out the initial establishment maintenance and provide management prescriptions to guide the ongoing development of the new landscape, usually for 25 years.Top of page.
Appropriate Assessment (AA) is a high level of formal ecological assessment required as part of the planning process under Articles 6 (3 & 4) of the European Union Habitats Directive. An AA is required to be carried out only where a scheme is likely to have a significant impact on a Natura 2000 site of international importance. These include sites nominated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), under the Habitats and Birds Directives.
The assessment will include a detailed analysis of likely direct and indirect impacts of the proposed scheme on the special interests of the designated site, both through construction and on-going use of the development, including for example, recreational pressures on sensitive sites designated on account of over-wintering and breeding populations of wildfowl. In order for such proposed developments to be viewed favourably by the statutory environmental consultees and other stakeholders, a high level of mitigation and habitat enhancement including in-situ habitat retention and enhancement, along with managed displacement of wildlife, if considered necessary, may be required. Any habitat loss will need to be off-set by significant levels of new and appropriate compensatory habitat provision.Top of page.
BIM (Building Information Modelling)
The government has decided that all public sector construction projects will need to be ‘BIM’ compliant by 2016 with a view to reducing construction costs and the carbon footprint. In simple terms it is about everyone on a project singing off the same hymn sheet using digital technology.
BIM stands for Building Information Modelling and is a strategic process to design, through the life cycle of a project, with the overall aim of producing a more useful and cost effective process for the client by sharing information efficiently.
Currently there is no specific ‘BIM’ software but you may be further ahead than you realise with BIM. At Liz Lake Associates we currently operate at Level 2 BIM, producing managed 2D and 3D digitally generated plans and models, supporting specifications and schedules and sharing these as open data within the project team; we can export these to most commonly used outputs to meet our client’s needs.
For more information on ‘landscape-related BIM’ visit the Landscape Institute’s websiteTop of page.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)
BREEAM is one of the more widely used environmental assessment methods for new homes, offices, schools and other buildings to meet the criteria of the Code for Sustainable Homes. It sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and is a measure used to describe a building's environmental performance. BREEAM addresses wide-ranging environmental and sustainability issues and enables developers and designers to prove the environmental credentials of their developments buildings to planners and clients. The credits that are obtainable in this scheme for the use of land of inherently low ecological value, habitat protection and/or ecological enhancement measures are often invaluable in helping a scheme achieve a higher level credit score.Top of page.
Biodiversity 2020 is a government policy paper that sets out ‘[A] strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services’. In October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, over 190 countries around the world reached a global agreement to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity. The mission for this strategy, for the next decade, is: • to halt overall biodiversity loss • support healthy well-functioning ecosystems • establish coherent ecological networks, with more and better places for nature for the benefit of wildlife and people.
See also Ecosystem Services below and download the document from here:Top of page.
Biodiversity Action Plan
Biodiversity Action Plans are now replaced by the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework for the period 2011-2020. In England the focus is on delivering outcomes in the Biodiversity 2020 Strategy (published August 2011).
Biodiversity Action Plans and Habitat Creation Plans are no longer officially recognised but should not be disregarded. The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) act 2006 makes clear that Local Planning Authorities should consider impacts to biodiversity when determining planning applications with particular regard to UK BAP/S41 list of species and habitats, even when they are not covered by legislation.
Local BAPs are no longer formally recognised but can still be of use in meeting targets for natural conservation.Top of page.
Cloud based file transfer
Many companies (and the Planning Inspectorate) have a limit of 10MB for incoming mail messages, meaning that larger files will often bounce back, undelivered. With cloud-based file transfer programmes like Hightail (formerly YouSendIt), We Transfer, Dropbox etc large files can be sent electronically with the majority accessed via a browser window for the upload process. The software links to your mail programme (Outlook etc) and stores larger attachments online, allowing the recipient to click on a download link to the attachment rather than receiving it as an email attachment.Top of page.
Code for Sustainable Homes
The Code for Sustainable Homes has been introduced by the government to drive a step-change in sustainable house home building practice as a response to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in 2006. This highlighted that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is a serious and urgent issue. In 2004, more than a quarter of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions, a major cause of climate change, came from the energy used to heat, light and run our homes.
Code compliance is voluntary but house home builders are encouraged to follow Code principles set out in this publication because the government is considering making assessment under Code standards mandatory in the future.
The Code measures the sustainability of a home against design categories, rating the 'whole home' as a complete package. The design categories are energy/CO2, pollution, water, health and well-being, materials, management, surface water run-off, ecology and waste. There are six code levels with six as the highest reflecting a carbon neutral building. One of the more frequently used assessment methods is BREEAM. Assessing the existing ecological value of the site and putting forward proposals for habitat protection and ecological enhancement gain credits in the assessment.Top of page.
Many of our clients have used public consultation to engage with the local community, in order to understand their views about a particular place or explain their proposals; with 'localism' (a focus on issues specific to a particular locality, in contrast to regional or national agendas) high on the political agenda, it is now even more important. Liz Lake Associates has prepared display boards for public exhibition, leaflets for distribution and websites for responses and consultation. We regularly attend public exhibitions and meetings to explain our client's proposals and record the public's views. With the refurbishment of public open spaces we have drafted questionnaires and met the public on site. We view this process as essential in understanding exactly how people use a particular area and what they are looking for in the redesign of what is often a much loved space.Top of page.
Community Infrastructure Levy
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a planning tool used by local planning authorities to help deliver key infrastructure in the local area, including contributions to local schools, parks, hospitals, roads. CIL was introduced under the Planning Act 2008 and the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010. Approved development may be liable to charges under CIL if the local authority has set up a charge in its area. A Section 106 and unilateral undertakings are another way that a developer can contribute to the public good as part of a planning permission but under these methods the requirements will relate to the site in some way whereas contributions to CIL go into a general pot for community benefit. See moreTop of page.
Conservation Management Plans
A Conservation Management Plan (CMP) is a written report with plans. It is fundamental to any kind of restoration of an historic landscape and includes the following:
Archival research to understand the historical development of the landscape.
A desk study to gain background information and the planning context of the site.
Accurate base plans to use for a condition survey of all aspects of the site.
Analysis of the value, significance and condition of the historic features, identification of any compromised areas, the relevance or appropriateness of more recent features and an understanding of the current maintenance regime.
Consultation with the stakeholders - authorities and interested bodies who have an interest in the site, and the people who live and take their leisure in the area.
Consultation with the client to agree on the principles of restoration including proposals for the restoration of the historic features, bearing in mind current-day use, and the need to integrate new features together with possibly a preliminary cost estimate and outline of future maintenance/management costs.
The final report will comprise presentation of the archival documents, survey, analysis, Statement of Significance, policies and proposals using plans and written text. CMP's for funding bids usually include costings.Top of page.
In the early stages of a heritage asset project, it is helpful to identify the key issues and prepare a Statement of Significance; a Conservation Management Plan would expand upon these initial findings. The historic landscape advisor would prepare a preliminary Historic Landscape Appraisal; the conservation architect would make a brief appraisal of any buildings or structures; the ecologist would carry out a site overview in terms of flora and fauna and would set out any specialist ecological survey that might be necessary to inform the proposals; and the landscape architect would look at the planning context and the landscape and visual aspects. Each specialist would decide if key issues warranted expertise in a particular area, for example, if a lake was constantly leaking, a hydrologist would be part of the initial team.The aim is to be able to say 'We think this site is significant because……' and to identify the full range of site constraints and also opportunities for enhancement.Top of page.
Historically the origin of the corporate landscape is associated with industrialisation, which in modern times scars the urban realm with post-industrials sites. The concept however has evolved in recent times, along with the progress of new technologies, and is characterized by completely different needs; it is an expression of innovation and fresh values.
Corporate landscape is proactive rather than reactive; corporations and manufacturers are realising the potential of the grounds surrounding their facilities. It is an extension of ‘green’/ environmental policies that enhances the brand in a more meaningful and authentic way.
Outstanding examples are: Ricola’s Herb Gardens in Switzerland Google’s headquarters in California and Ceretto’s vineyards & headquarters in Italy. In the last few decades there has been a shift from public to private funding for landscape architectural projects; corporate landscape enhancement raises the profile of a company but also contributes to the public realm.Top of page.
Design & Access Statement
All applications for planning permission and listed building consent must be accompanied by a Design and Access Statement. In preparing these reports, we offer the full service or alternatively can contribute to a client's existing document.
Explaining the design thinking behind a planning application, the Design and Access Statement is an opportunity to demonstrate that the client has paid due attention to the needs of everyone, including disabled people, older people and very young children, who will be using the places they want to build. Avoiding jargon and technical language, it should include a written description and justification of the planning application, often with photos, maps and drawings.Top of page.
Design Briefs and Vision Statements
Increasingly, design briefs and vision statements are being used alongside desktop studies of local and regional planning policies, to prepare site-specific proposals. These are often prepared by the local planning authority and have a greater, more formal status if the document has been approved by a council committee. A Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (or Supplementary Planning guidance (SPG)) will have 'been to committee' but a 'design brief' is likely to have been prepared by an individual officer and without committee approval does not carry as much weight.
These can be invaluable tools in moving the design process forward. At Liz Lake Associates, we can help clients respond to design briefs and vision statements prepared by local planning authorities and equally we can prepare these documents for any kind of development site.Top of page.
Ecological Desk Study
An important element of an ecological assessment relating to a proposed development scheme is a thorough investigation of all available sources of data from environmental consultees. This is likely to include site citation and mapping regarding sites of inter-national (eg Special Protection Areas and Ramsar Sites), national (eg Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and regional / local (eg Local Wildlife Sites) nature conservation value, along with records of European (eg otter and great crested newt) and UK protected (eg reptiles and water voles) species of fauna and flora and UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species (eg stag beetles and skylarks). These records are generally available from regional offices of Natural England, County Wildlife Trusts, bat and badger groups etc. and the Environment Agency.
The results of the desk study are then used to feed into the ecological assessment, to enable a more thorough investigation of likely ecological issues to be undertaken and to inform the need for specialist species survey on the proposed development site.Top of page.
Ecological mitigation may be necessary in order to limit the effects of development by enabling the inhabiting wildlife and the habitats present to survive during the construction process and to co-exist with the completed scheme. Translocation may be required if protected or other notable species of wildlife cannot be readily or safely accommodated on the development site. This may include the need for exclusion fencing, managed displacement and/ or the creation of new artificial habitat eg a specially constructed badger sett, or the provision of enhanced receptor habitats. This could include, for example, the construction of log and brash pile hibernacula to accommodate displaced reptiles, and the adoption of a more suitable, relaxed management regime to optimise the carrying capacity of the receptor habitat for these species. Depending on the species involved the mitigation process may require formal agreement from Natural England in the form of a development licence.
In order to ensure full compliance with the agreed programme of mitigation, a programme of monitoring is often required by the Local Planning Authority/environmental consultees. This is often stipulated within a long term Nature Conservation Management Plan.Top of page.
When looking at proposed new developments, we often find that valuable wildlife habitats have become established on greenfield and brownfield sites where there has been limited human activity. The presence of protected species, in particular, can have significant financial and programme implications for a project.
Working with government bodies, ecologists, local wildlife groups and other specialists, Liz Lake Associates can offer a full and detailed service including initial ecological site assessments and Joint Nature Conservation Committee Phase 1 Habitat Surveys. We can also organise the preparation of specialist surveys for protected species such as bats, badgers and great-crested newts. Having collated this information, we can advise on current legislation and best practice guidelines and liaise with government departments, planning authorities and wildlife groups, in order to provide a sustainable and appropriate development solution acceptable to all parties. In addition, we offer advice on site design incorporating retained areas of habitat and/or strategic new habitat creation, along with possible mitigation measures and the drawing up of long-term management plans. This complicated, but essential, process can save the costly mistakes of contravening wide-ranging environmental laws and avoid the need for redesign and possible delays to the development programme.
An Ecological Survey would form the baseline data for an Ecological Impact Assessment.Top of page.
Ecosystem services are provided by the natural environment; for example water, food and timber for fuel which we sometimes describe as ‘nature’s benefits’. In this context we mean ‘benefits’ to human beings.
Humans depend on ecosystem services for a number of reasons:
Health – food production, clean water, disease regulation
Natural hazard protection – floods, storms, fires and droughts
Adaption to climate change – changes to quantity, quality and timing of water and food etc.
Fresh water provision – regulating the water cycle, filtering impurities and regulating erosion of soil into water
Environmental conservation – for example a protected area may provide clean water down stream
Food production – the pressure to increase production ‘overworks the land’ and may be unsustainable in the long term as ecosystems may degrade
Poverty reduction – rural areas often depend directly on ‘nature’s benefits’
Energy security – hydropower for example relies on regular water flow as well as erosion control both of which depend on intact ecosystems
An assessment of ecosystem services provides the connection between environmental issues and people. Assessment of ecosystem services must be:
Credible – involving qualified scientists and multiple reviews
Legitimate – the assessment must be holistic not bounded by ‘paper borders’
Relevant to decision makers’ needs – at the appropriate scale and in context.
A very simple example about decision making based on ecosystem services is if we are short of fuel for energy such as coal, we may decide to grow biofuel. If we choose to grow biofuel then we cannot use the land for food production.
See also Biodiversity 2020 above and this linkTop of page.
According to the Oregon State University, projects where food-production plants, such as fruits and nuts tree, berry bushes, vegetable, herbs and edible flowers, are integrated in the residential landscape are classified under the ‘Edible Landscape’ category. These designs adopt any garden or planting style and may include varied amount of edible specimens, which are not only valued for their productive function but also for their aesthetic qualities.
More and more people in the urban realm are being encouraged to grown their own food. Many landscape project briefs are being developed around the integration of edible landscape features like allotments, orchards, nut walks, herb borders and fruit bearing trees.Top of page.
Enabling development is a national English Heritage Policy that allows for possible development associated with heritage assets, provided certain criteria are met and the profits are used to restore the historic park or listed building. Enabling development has helped many historic buildings and landscapes to have a secure future, but the capacity of a site to absorb development varies greatly.
As with all landscape-related issues, the overview of an historic landscape site can help developers assess the risk of any development proposals. For a small budget we can organise archival research to understand the historic development of a site and advise on the likely issues relating to the historic landscape. These need not be constraints, as research often reveals opportunities for development perhaps in the replacement of demolished lodges or the rebuilding of follies as new accommodation for the 21st century. Research at an early stage could make a considerable difference to investment planning and promote long-term benefits for the historic landscape.Top of page.
An Enforcement Notice is served when the local planning authority considers that a development or land use does not have planning permission. It may also be served when conditions, imposed as part of permission, have not been adequately implemented.
The threat of enforcement proceedings is extremely stressful. Enforcement notices are not issued lightly and there are many opportunities to discuss the situation before one is served. At Liz Lake Associates, we have experience in helping clients avoid scenarios which culminate in a notice and in resolving matters early by negotiation.
We have particular expertise in untangling and resolving land use and landscape issues in complex situations, and have helped in the following solutions:
Negotiation for activities to cease over a phased period.
Agreement of alternative land uses.
Preparation of retrospective planning applications.
Acquisition of a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development that allows an activity to continue.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an assessment of the potential positive or negative effects that a proposed project may have on the natural, social and economic aspects of the environment. An EIA is the process of assessment and an Environmental Statement (ES) is the document in which the results of the assessment are set out.
The UK legislation on EIA was introduced to implement European Directives (1985 and 1997) and is enshrined in a raft of complex legislation and guidelines that cannot be ignored. The regulations set out the projects that require an EIA but there are sometimes grey areas where it is not clear if an EIA will be required and this will need to be clarified with the local planning authority. The local authority agrees a Scoping Opinion setting out those areas that they consider need to be covered, such as ecology, hydrology, cultural heritage, etc. Each specialist has to address their specific environmental topic, setting out their methodology, the process of their assessment and an evaluation of the significance of the effects of the development; these can be adverse or beneficial effects. Cumulative effects are also considered and a non-technical summary has to be provided.Top of page.
European Landscape Convention
The European Landscape Convention (ELC) is the first international convention to focus specifically on landscape. It is dedicated to the protection, management, and planning of landscapes in Europe. The ELC came into force in the UK in 2007. The EU definition of landscape includes all urban and peri-urban landscapes, towns, villages and rural areas, the coast and inland waters. It applies to all landscapes however ordinary or degraded as well as areas that are outstanding or protected. The Landscape Institute has a comprehensive overview of the content of the ELC on their website
The Guidelines for implementing the European Landscape Convention (2014) prepared by Natural England and the Department for Environment, Food, are intended to help government departments, agencies, local government and other organisations to protect and manage landscapes better, hereTop of page.
An expert witness should have specialist knowledge in his or her particular subject and provide an independent view that may be relied upon by people with less knowledge of the subject.
At Liz Lake Associates our expert witness specialisms relate to ecological, landscape, visual and cultural heritage issues as part of the planning process. We most commonly act as expert witness for appeals against the refusal of planning permission, either with written representations, at an informal hearing or at a public inquiry. We can act for the appellant who is seeking planning permission, for the local planning authority that has refused the application, or for third parties who are objecting to a proposal. We will always examine the appeal first to determine if we can support the client's objectives.
For an inquiry, the Planning Inspectorate expects an expert witness to try to agree a Statement of Common Ground with their counterpart on the other side to reduce Inquiry time. They will prepare a proof of evidence that sets out their view on the key issues where agreement has not been reached. This will be presented as part of the appellant or local planning authority's case and the expert witness will be cross-examined by the other side's planning solicitor or barrister. Robustness under cross-examination is a key part of an expert witness's role, but the most important objective is to clearly and succinctly inform the planning inspector of the arguments of the case.Top of page.
The book Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment third edition (GLVIA3) is the current publication by the Landscape Institute and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (2013) for landscape and visual impact assessment. It serves as a guide for carrying out landscape and visual assessments and encourages an industry- wide standard to be met by all landscape architects.
GLVIA3 replaced the second edition GLVIA2. In general terms the approach and methodologies in the new edition are similar. The main difference is that GLVIA3 places greater emphasis on professional judgement and a narrative output with less emphasis on a formulaic approach.Top of page.
Green Belt Assessment
A Green Belt Assessment (GBA) looks at a parcel of land and assesses its performance against each of the five purposes of the Green Belt, as set out in paragraph 80 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The aim of the assessment is to determine if the site still serves the five purposes and, if not, why it might be considered for exclusion from the Green Belt.
For example a brownfield site which has previously been developed may technically still lie within the Green Belt. As a result it is likely that the parcel of land would score less favourably against the five purposes of the Green Belt and a GBA could help the land owner secure planning permission for future development.
Local planning authorities also prepare GBAs; their purpose is to have a standard methodology against which applicants’ proposals to take land out of the Green Belt for development can be tested. Use a GBA prepared by the planning authority if there is one; if none exists the consultant must use their own methodology.Top of page.
Green Infrastructure (GI) is defined in the Natural Environment White Paper 2011 as: ‘A term used to refer to the living network of green spaces, water and other environmental features in both urban and rural areas. It is often used in an urban context to cover benefits provided by trees, parks, gardens, road verges, allotments, cemeteries, woodlands, rivers and wetlands. Green infrastructure is also relevant in a rural context, where it might refer to the use of farmland, woodland, wetlands or other natural features to provide services such as flood protection, carbon storage or water purification. Green infrastructure maintains critical ecological links between town and country.’
Green infrastructure is an important planning tool and increasingly forms a key part of ecosystem services and indicative of a greater awareness of the contribution that landscape makes to our everyday life. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that a key way of advancing green infrastructure is for developers to deliver high quality new open spaces, links and habitats as part of their development proposals.Top of page.
For proposed development schemes to provide a degree of positive biodiversity gain, it is often necessary to be able to offer new habitat creation proposals. These may range from the large-scale ecological enhancement and long term protection and management of an associated tranche of land, eg species-rich meadowland, reed bed and woodland, or at a smaller scale, the provision of a range of artificial micro-habitats, to be implemented as part of the scheme eg bat boxes and bricks and reptile hibernacula. In many cases these habitat creation schemes are specifically targeted at vulnerable protected species and may also be required by means of ecological mitigation or compensation, to off-set losses or disturbance to existing habitats, as a result of the development scheme.Top of page.
Heritage Impact Assessment
Section 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework places a duty on local authorities to consider the impact of proposed development on a heritage asset including its setting. This has become known as a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and it should be submitted with a planning application. Several local authorities have prepared useful guidance on what they think should be in an HIA.
At the very least the Historic Environment Record should be consulted but most projects will require a more in-depth understanding of the asset so as to inform the development of any proposals. The understanding will include an assessment of the significance of the asset; an HIA tests the proposals against the identified heritage values that contribute to that significance. A Heritage Impact Assessment will be judged by specialists in landscape, architecture and conservation and should be undertaken by suitably qualified professionals.Top of page.
Heritage landscape is a broad term used to describe landscapes, archaeological features or the landscape around a building or a complex of buildings that has a historic dimension. Historic buildings can be listed and their setting is protected by legislation.
There are almost 1,650 parks and gardens in England on the English Heritage register of parks and gardens of historic significance. These are landscapes often devised by well known designers and landowners. In addition, there are hundreds of smaller parks and gardens in every county not yet on the register that are gradually being discovered by the County Gardens Trust, the Garden History Society and informed individuals.
Heritage landscape can also be important for its cultural heritage, for example the artist Stanley Spencer's association with the village of Cookham near to the Thames, and the renowned landscape painter John Constable's with the Stour valley. Sometimes there is a literary or musical association or a landscape may be important to a community for a significant past event or custom.
The historic dimension can also come from its land use and management over the centuries and English Heritage is seeking to broaden our understanding of the whole landscape through its nationwide programme of historic landscape characterisation. This often contributes to published landscape character assessments, which seek to provide a baseline assessment of the nation's countryside.
Liz Lake Associates has been involved in heritage landscape projects for over twenty-five years and, during that time, recognition of the value of designed historic landscapes has grown considerably. These complex landscapes often encapsulate many layers of history as each generation has left its mark. Unravelling the key periods and the significance of an individual park or garden is becoming increasingly important. While some private clients have funds for restoration, others rely on lottery funding, agri-environment grants, inheritance tax exemption schemes or alternatively the proceeds of enabling development. This is an English Heritage policy which allows new build to be considered, but any profit has to go towards the restoration of the heritage asset.
Whatever the source of funding, all restoration projects usually require a Conservation Statement and/or a Conservation Management Plan that analyses the existing situation, assesses the significance of the site, and looks at the opportunities to benefit the heritage asset.
Our historic landscape work has been carried out in collaboration with the highly respected Debois Landscape Survey Group and with a number of recognised historic landscape specialists. Debois' skills include archival research and the interpretation of field archaeology, particularly for designed landscapes. Our task has been to interpret its research findings to develop appropriate management and restoration proposals for modern-day uses.
We also draw on a network of other consultants for expertise in conservation architecture, hydrology, archaeology, ecology, taxonomy, tourism, forestry, arboriculture. sculpture, engineering and landscape management.
Our expertise in heritage landscapes has led to the completion of a range of complex and sensitive conservation and refurbishment projects for restoration and enabling development. Development of historic buildings is not for the fainthearted, but, with the help of qualified experts in both buildings and landscapes, they bring surprising rewards and with appropriate development can help secure the future of our heritage assets.
English Heritage define conservation as "the process of managing change to a significant place in its setting in ways that will best sustain its heritage values, while recognising opportunities to reveal or reinforce those values for present and future generations". At the root of this is establishing the significance of the asset and what makes it so special. Listed buildings and historic landscapes have often been devalued by demolition, inappropriate extensions or buildings and sprawling, intrusive car parking. Removing these inappropriate features can transform a building and its setting. The aim is to identify the most significant remnants of the historic landscape and contribute towards a strategy either for restoration or to identify where development should be best located.
Liz Lake Associates has wide experience of negotiation and collaboration with English Heritage, Conservation Officers, the Garden History Society and the County Gardens Trusts. Our aim is to try to demonstrate that no harm will come to the asset and that the vision for the buildings and the setting can provide a sustainable future.Top of page.
Heritage Lottery Fund Projects
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is the largest dedicated funder of the UK's heritage, with around £375 million a year to invest in new projects. HLF has supported more than 36,000 projects allocating £6billion across the UK. for over 15 years. It invests in every part of our heritage from museums, parks and historic places, to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions.
The Heritage Lottery Fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) which was given the responsibility of distributing a share of money raised through the National Lottery for Good Causes, to heritage across the UK, in 1994. It is a non-departmental public body accountable to Parliament via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The HLF supports community development within its programmes, but is directed towards the fabric of heritage. The Big Lottery Fund (BLF) concentrates more on people and activities, but occasionally some categories cover landscape- or townscape-related ventures.
We have prepared three Conservation Management Plans for HLF bids that have all resulted in successful grants for our delighted clients and we have worked up Stage 1 proposals for the next stage of detailed design. We understand the process and put together specialist teams appropriate to the age and style of the park or garden to help clients prepare an application.Top of page.
Historic Landscape Appraisal
There are almost 1,650 parks and gardens in England on the English Heritage register of parks and gardens of special historic significance. There are also many more unregistered sites of considerable interest. A Conservation Statement or a Conservation Management Plan is an essential tool in assessing a way forward for a historic landscape; alternatively a helpful exercise is to carry out a preliminary Historic Landscape Appraisal before committing to an extensive programme of work. This will identify the likely extent of archival information, the importance of the features on the ground and inform advice on a way forward including likely costs.Top of page.
Implementation On Site
Having acquired considerable experience in contract administration, we relish the opportunity to guide projects through from initial conception to successful implementation on site. Drawing on our knowledge of this complex process, once a landscape scheme has been agreed and planning permission granted, we can set to work preparing a step-by-step plan, agreeing budgets and drawing up detailed designs.
We have particular expertise in preparing landscape contracts, including bills of quantity, either as stand-alone JCLI (Joint Council for Landscape Industries) contracts or as a subcontract of an architectural or engineering project. We can advise clients on how to select contractors for tenders, and can oversee the tender process.
Once the contract has been awarded, our role as contract administrator is to ensure that the work is completed to the standard required, on time and to budget. We can also monitor contractors' maintenance work for up to five years to ensure the successful establishment of planting.Top of page.
There are several standard forms of contract for implementing construction work on site but those prepared by the Joint Committee for Landscape Industries (JCLI) are specifically for landscape works and landscape maintenance works. These are used as contractual agreements between the client and landscape contractor, often with the landscape architect acting as contract administrator. The contracts set out the total value of the works, parties to the contract and timescale as well as a detailed explanation of the terms and conditions of the contract. Standard forms of contract such as the JCLI are recognised across the industry, saving time and providing a tried and tested framework for successfully implementing a scheme.
JCLI contracts for larger projects are available from the Landscape Institute. JCLI also produces landscape related contracts suitable for home owners; these are available from the Society of Garden DesignersTop of page.
Joint Nature Conservation Committee Phase 1 Survey
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the public body that advises the UK government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation. Its aim is to maintain and enrich biological diversity and conserve geological features to help sustain natural systems which provide the core "services" like food, fresh water and clean air, to contribute to economic growth and the social well-being integral to sustainable development.
JNCC itself is a forum that brings together the UK's four country conservation bodies advising government and a wide range of bodies, to help join up policy and to deliver a strong and cost-effective evidence base, by helping to see that the best possible return is achieved from investment in research and surveillance in the UK and internationally.
The JNCC Phase 1 habitat classification and associated field survey technique is a relatively rapid system of recording semi-natural vegetation and other wildlife habitats. Each habitat type/feature is defined by way of a brief description and is allocated a specific name, an alpha-numeric code, and unique mapping colour. The survey will highlight particular areas, for example, habitats with potential for protected species that require further investigation and a second stage of survey. The system has been widely used and continues to act as the standard 'phase 1' technique for habitat survey across the UK.Top of page.
The Landscape Institute is the professional regulatory body for landscape architects in the UK and has a useful section on their website called bealandscapearchitect.com which defines our work as follows:
‘Landscape architects create great places. They work with the built and natural environment to create wildlife habitats, innovative spaces, install sustainable infrastructure and improve environmental quality, health and wellbeing, and create thriving communities.
Landscape professionals can deal with a wide range of landscapes, from urban to rural spaces, infrastructure, mountain tops to beaches. Because of this, the profession relies on individuals to draw on knowledge of design, technical skills, management, ecology, problem solving and innovation across multiple projects and tasks.’
The services that the American Society of Landscape Architects considers that a landscape architect provides are (but are not limited to): • ‘Investigation, selection and allocation of land and water resources for appropriate uses; • Formulation of feasibility studies, and graphic and written criteria to govern the planning, design and management of land and water resources. • Preparation, review and analysis of land use master plans, subdivision plans and preliminary plans; • Determining the location and siting of improvements, including buildings and other features, as well as the access and environs for those improvements; • Design of land forms, stormwater drainage, soil conservation and erosion control methods, site lighting, water features, irrigation systems, plantings, pedestrian and vehicular circulation systems and related construction details’.Top of page.
Landscape design today, continues the long tradition of humans shaping the environment to create places to live and work, for pleasure or play, for contemplation, to renew contact with nature or to engender change. We believe our role is to enhance any area, to nourish and uplift the spirit, and to provide cost-effective solutions. Along with our creative approach, the work we do is accompanied by strong technical and practical expertise with our knowledge of tree and ecological surveys, the planning and building process and contract administration.
While the design of urban, suburban and rural landscapes forms the heart of our work, our skills and services extend far beyond the boundaries of just creating and implementing new schemes. We have experience of every aspect of environmental design from the moment an idea starts to be formed to the day of handover to the client – and beyond. We act as project managers and also have experience of being part of multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with other professionals on major construction projects from the design stage right through to implementation on site.
New landscapes need aftercare; to ensure that schemes continue to look good and perform at their best for years to come, we can also prepare long-term management plans.Top of page.
Landscape Institute Registered Practice
Liz Lake Associates is a registered practice of the Landscape Institute, the professional body for Chartered Landscape Architects. In their words using a registered practice means a client can ‘be confident that you are working with committed professionals’ and ‘have the assurance of a quality benchmark, backed by a trusted professional body’. All Registered Practices are obliged to:
Have Professional Indemnity Insurance cover
Adhere to the Landscape Institute's Code of Conduct
Comply with Landscape Institute’s Continuing Professional Development regulations
Have as a Principal or Department Head, a Chartered landscape architect with a full managerial and technical responsibility for landscape work
Landscape planning is concerned with the location, scenic, ecological and recreational aspects of urban, rural and coastal land use. It involves working in all contexts and scales from the international to the local and on all types of development, advising on or managing proposals for change which may affect the landscape. Central to our work is the ability to assess an existing landscape and its potential and capacity to accommodate change.
We have earned a reputation for encouraging and implementing high-quality designs and successfully handling the complex negotiations that can arise during the planning process. As a result, we have the skills to prepare design solutions to satisfy both hard and soft landscape objectives and reports to accompany planning applications. These include reports on Landscape Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) or Ecological Impact Assessment; a Townscape Assessment is sometimes required in residential schemes. Proposals will include strategies for mitigation or a more formal assessment within an Environmental Impact Assessment. Our clients rely on us to help reduce the impact of their development by high-quality design solutions and effective mitigation.
Community engagement is often a key issue for developments and we prepare display boards for public exhibition, leaflets for distribution and websites for responses and consultation. We regularly attend public exhibitions and meetings to explain our client's proposals and record the public's views.
We also prepare or contribute to Design and Access Statements now required for all planning applications. If a Section 106 Obligation or a Unilateral Obligation is required, we can help draft a suitable document. If an application is successful, we can go on to satisfy hard and soft landscape conditions with detailed design or monitor the implementation of proposals within a Section 106 or Unilateral Obligation.
When planning permission is refused, we can act as an expert witness preparing proofs of evidence with clear and concise plans, clear graphics and, photomontages for impact assessments – these have proved successful on numerous occasions at public inquiry. This can be for either the appellant or the local planning authority, but we will always give a view before accepting a project as to whether we feel able to support the client's objectives.
When our clients want to influence the direction of a Local Plan in regards to their land, we assess the capacity of the landscape to accommodate their proposed land use. We provide an independent and realistic view of their options and can prepare reports for submission to the local planning authority to support their objectives. Often clients seek our view before a site is purchased.
At the smaller scale, the threat of enforcement proceedings is extremely stressful. Enforcement notices are not issued lightly and there are many opportunities to discuss the situation before one is served. At Liz Lake Associates, we have experience in helping clients avoid scenarios which culminate in a notice and in many cases (hopefully) resolving matters early by negotiation.
We also run training courses on a variety of landscape-related topics for a range of related professionals including landscape architects and local authority planning officers.Top of page.
A Landscape Strategy outlines the key proposals for a development with a simple plan and written text. A typical comment could be 'existing woodland managed for nature conservation benefit, retaining screening effect'. The written text would provide more detail of how the woodland would be managed and the type of new planting that might be introduced.Top of page.
The central principle that defines landscape urbanism is that landscape replaces architecture (the built form) as the building block for urban developments. It is a theory based approach that sees our landscape as the medium which informs the design and development of urban environments.
Landscape urbanism does not infer that landscape is the single most important aspect of urban development, but encourages a multidisciplinary process that involves all relevant professions. By fully understanding the landscape elements it strives to create environmentally sustainable urban developments.Top of page.
Landscape and Visual Impact Appraisal/ Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment
A Landscape and Visual Impact Appraisal is undertaken to identify the landscape and visual issues of a potential development site and to help inform the design process. The lack of detailed proposals means that an assessment of the likely effects is only made in very broad term, if at all.
A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment is undertaken when a development proposal has been finalised and detailed proposals are available to illustrate the precise form, nature, design and scale of the proposed development. The process includes an assessment of the existing situation, identification of the likely landscape and visual effects of the proposed development and assessment of the significance of those effects. Confusingly Landscape and Visual Impact Appraisals and Assessments are both known as LVIA.
A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment looks at the landscape and visual aspects of a proposed development and is an essential element of most planning applications, even those that do not require a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Liz Lake Associates has developed a framework for undertaking landscape and visual impact assessments that evaluates the contribution of proposals to the locality. We assess the capacity of a particular site or landscape to absorb the proposals, and outline the significance of the changes that will occur.
An assessment of the landscape and visual effects of a proposed development demands description, classification, analysis and evaluation; value judgements made are supported by factual evidence based on desktop studies and fieldwork.
There are four aspects to the assessment:
The Existing Situation – description, classification and evaluation
The Proposals – description and classification
The Effects of the Proposals – description, analysis
The Significance of the Effects – analysis and evaluation.
The assessment is divided into two parts:
The effect on landscape character
The effect on visual amenity.
The assessment of effect on landscape character is directly linked to published landscape character assessments. An assessment is then made of the local landscape character. The appearance of the landscape is one aspect of the local landscape character but the ‘visual amenity’ of a view is its value to the people who may see it. The effects of a proposed development on visual amenity are classified as effects on population.
Our widely-respected methodology has been constructed to take account of all recent directives, and has formed the basis of training workshops given to planners and landscape architects on landscape character and its role in the planning system. Where this methodology has been used as the basis of our evidence at public inquiry, it has proved to be robust on cross-examination.Top of page.
Living roofs provide benefits for biodiversity and are being used increasingly to gain credits in a BREEAM assessment and/or as part of a sustainable urban drainage strategy. The terms ‘green’ and ‘brown’ roofs are bandied about but to be more precise they come in three varieties – intensive, semi intensive and extensive.
An intensive roof is a traditional roof garden and has a fair depth of topsoil, say 300mm minimum, is irrigated and capable of growing a wide range of plants (‘green’). A semi-intensive roof has a topsoil depth (or substrate) of around 150mm and might be irrigated depending on the design objectives. (‘green’ - if irrigated or not). A sedum roof comes under the category of an extensive roof, as these are not meant to be walked on except for maintenance. Sedum roofs are generally intended for urban areas (‘brown’).
A roof could be a hybrid of semi intensive and extensive but the flora would vary in the different habitats. It is in the ‘extensive’ area that ecological experiments are taking place – these use different substrates (eg crushed stone, aggregate, pumice) at different depths which results in a very varied flora (‘brown’). These are often known as bio-diverse roofs and are often specifically designed to provide favourable habitat for invertebrates and threatened bird species, including, in particular, the black redstart, which requires a rubbly substrate and a sparse associated native vegetative cover.Top of page.
Created specifically for each site, management plans are the responsibility of our landscape ecologist and manager Susan Deakin MSc BSc CMLI. She has over 25 years experience in this specialised field and works as an integral part of the design team to ensure that the long-term future of sites is secured and optimised.
As set out in planning conditions and/or Section 106 Obligations for development sites, there is an increasing need for management plans. These can include routine landscape maintenance, longer-term woodland and other habitat management or more innovative nature-conservation management.
Compiling a management plan usually begins early in the site's master planning process. It evolves as a result of the initial ecological survey and discussions with the design team, the client and the local planning authority. Next comes consultation with the environmental bodies, including Natural England and the relevant county wildlife trust, combined with research into environmental constraints and opportunities associated with the site. This is as critical as accurate site assessment and analysis of the landscape proposals in creating an optimal management plan.
Comprising a report, management drawings and schedules as appropriate, the plan should ensure that the visual appeal, nature-conservation interests and, if relevant, the recreational value of the site, are all maximised in the long term. This is achieved through the implementation of an efficient, financially effective and dynamic management strategy.Top of page.
Natural play refers to a more informal approach to play areas and encourages the use of natural elements such as logs, boulders, landform and planting. This approach gives children the freedom to create their own games, encouraging more creativity than perhaps a swing which offers the same experience to every user. The Danish landscape architect, Helle Nebelong, is considered a leading proponent of natural play design. More informationon him can be found hereTop of page.
With nature conservation high on the environmental agenda, Liz Lake Associates has always viewed this aspect of our work as an integral part of landscape design. Along with our own experience and skills, we often work in association with consultant ecologists, a range of specialists and landscape managers. Susan Deakin MSc BSc CMLI, ecologist and landscape manager has been a key member of our design team for over 30 years.
Drawing on this bank of knowledge, we offer reliable and comprehensive guidance to help clients comply with legislation, including often far-reaching European laws. We regularly liaise and negotiate with authorities including Natural England, County Wildlife Trusts, the Environment Agency and Defra, to provide environmentally sustainable solutions for the long-term benefit of nature conservation including habitat creation and management.
Essential to the process is the initial Joint Nature Conservation Committee Phase 1 Habitat Survey, which provides target notes identifying where more detailed survey is required. This informs the design solution and the landscape and biodiversity strategies for the site.
It is increasingly important that development schemes are seen not only to comply with current national, regional and county level planning policy, with respect to safeguarding ecologically sensitive sites(mitigating against damage or loss of habitat used by protected species and off-setting losses through the provision of compensation habitat), but that, where possible, they also provide net ecological gain, through enhanced conservation management, creation of green infrastructure wildlife corridors, and/or contribution to the UK, County and/or Local Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) objectives.
The majority of new residential and other development schemes now prescribe to the 'green' agenda, through compliance with BREEAM criteria for sustainability in the construction industry. The credits that are obtainable in this scheme for use of land of inherently low ecological value, habitat protection and/or ecological enhancement measures are often invaluable in helping a scheme achieve a high level credit score. We have worked on a large number of Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) projects, including large residential schemes such as Harlow Gateway and other substantial housing developments in Colchester, Chelmsford, London and Farnborough, along with a number of single unit schemes, mainly in London.Top of page.
Pathway to Chartership (P2C)
Pathway to Chartership (P2C) is a professional qualification from the Landscape Institute for UK landscape architects. Following completion of a degree it takes about two years to cover the requirements of the P2C syllabus. Each candidate has a Pathway mentor who they meet at regular intervals and a Pathway supervisor who makes a quarterly overview. There are five aspects to developing knowledge:
Central to this method of learning is developing the ability to be reflective about all aspects of your workload and how it relates to the syllabus which covers all aspects of the professional practice of landscape architecture in the public and private sector. In discussion with the candidate the mentor and supervisor decide when the candidate is ready to take the final oral exam. Two experienced practitioners will meet with the candidate to determine their level of knowledge, work experience and suitability to work as a professional chartered landscape architect. The great benefit of working towards P2C is that it can be done at your own pace. If you want to get your head down and get on with it that is fine but if you have family commitments and want to take three or four years that works too. If you have years of experience but have never got round to being chartered, here is an opportunity for you to qualify. So why does it help to be a chartered Landscape Architect? In the UK you must be chartered to set up a registered practice of the Landscape Institute or if you want to be an expert witness at a planning inquiry. Studying for P2C takes time and commitment but those who persevere gain confidence and a willingness to take on responsibility which means they can take on more complex and challenging projects. Many unchartered landscape architects make a good living but there may be a salary ceiling and you will undoubtedly earn more being chartered. The one issue with the qualification is whether it is recognised in other countries. If you intend to work outside of the UK find out whether P2C is recognised as a professional qualification in your proposed location. If you intend to stay long-term in a particular country it may be better to work towards their professional qualifications rather than embarking on P2C.Top of page.
A photomontage is a technique by which a composite photographic image is formed by combining images from separate photographic or graphic sources. They are used to give a still frame image of a proposal; at one extreme this is to give a flavour of the character of the proposal or, in the case of controversial proposals, to give a very accurate and precise representation of the proposals.
While plans and drawings will provide accurate and detailed information about proposed schemes, there are occasions when high-quality visualisations can lift an idea off the page and bring a project to life. Many practices prepare these in house but where accuracy is important we work with specialist consultants to make sure that accurate photomontages are prepared which will provide that extra level of insight, enabling clients, planning authorities and the public to envisage what a new development will look like.
For example, a scheme to redevelop an industrial site involved closing and relocating the entrance to reduce the project's visual impact. Working for the property developer client, our sequence of photomontages showed the existing view, the site at completion, and the site with established planting. We demonstrated clearly that the new location of the entrance would work successfully and enhance the scheme.
Also called visualisations, photomontages for public inquiries must be prepared as VVMs which can stand for both 'Verified View Montages' and 'Visually Verified Montages'.Top of page.
With planning issues central to many of our projects, we have become closely acquainted with the process of making a planning application. At any one time, we have more than 30 schemes going through the system, sometimes entirely prepared by us, but more often we form part a wider design team.
In preparing applications for clients, our design work is accompanied by all relevant supporting material, including multi-disciplinary documents and stand-alone reports.
Along with producing an appraisal of the existing site, including the landscape character and visual amenity, we also work with specialists to assess the nature conservation value of the site, and will identify any other landscape-related issues that may require specialist input.
We assess the effects of a proposed development on the existing landscape character and on the ecological value of the site, where applicable, and its capacity to absorb the proposed change. By always seeking to enhance the landscape and its associated habitats, we can suggest creative and practical solutions that will avoid, reduce or offset adverse effects of a development.
With consultation forming an important part of the planning process, we have considerable experience of negotiations with local planning authorities. We have also organised exhibitions to illustrate and explain proposed schemes and are happy to participate in public consultation.
With planning issues central to many of our projects, we have become closely acquainted with the process of making a planning application. At any one time, we have more than 30 schemes going through the system, either prepared by us or as a contribution to a design team.
In preparing applications for clients, our design work is accompanied by all relevant supporting material including multi-disciplinary documents and stand-alone reports.
Along with producing an appraisal of the existing site, including the landscape character and visual amenity, we also work with specialists to assess the nature conservation value of the site, and will identify any other landscape-related issues that may require specialist input.
We assess the effects of a proposed development on the existing landscape character and on the ecological value of the site, where applicable, and its capacity to absorb the proposed change. By always seeking to enhance the landscape and its associated habitats, we can suggest creative and practical solutions that will avoid, reduce and offset the effects of a development.
With consultation forming an important part of the planning process, we have considerable experience of negotiations with local planning authorities. We have also organised exhibitions to illustrate and explain proposed schemes and are happy to participate in public consultation.Top of page.
Planting plans are technical landscape drawings which detail the species, quantities, size and densities of all planting proposals as well as listing a full planting specification. Planting plans show enough detail to enable a landscape contractor to implement the planting proposals and they are usually required by the local planning authority as part of the condition discharge stage of a planning application.Top of page.
A pocket park is a small park open to the general public, often found in higher-density residential or urban areas. Design briefs for larger residential developments increasingly require 'pocket parks' as key spaces in an integrated high-quality public realm. Pocket parks are particularly relevant in denser residential schemes where private gardens do not feature because they provide inclusive public space that is unambiguously available to everyone. When designed successfully, the space becomes a communal garden that residents can take ownership of and the wider public can enjoy.
As a result of our experience in designing such spaces, Liz Lake Associates has developed a tried and tested set of criteria for the successful creation of pocket parks and our schemes have won a number of national design awards.Top of page.
Protected species surveys are a legal requirement if the initial ecological survey indicates that species listed in Article 12 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (Habitats Regulations 2010) and / or the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), may be present on a development site. These surveys must be undertaken by a suitably qualified ecologist (SQE) at the correct time of year and following specific methodologies. For example, bat surveys must be undertaken in accordance with the Bat Conservation Trust bat survey guidelines (2012), which may include inspection for evidence of roosts in buildings, trees or other structures, combined with emergence and re-entry surveys and activity surveys.
European Protected Species (EPS) include bats, great crested newts, otters and dormice and surveys for these species must be undertaken by an appropriately licensed surveyor. Any subsequent disturbance of habitats inhabited by EPS can only be undertaken once an EPS development licence has been obtained from Natural England and a planned programme of ecologically appropriate mitigation has been formally agreed. UK protected species include water voles, reptiles and badgers.
If the necessary surveys are not undertaken by a SQE at the correct time of year, the development process could be subject to significant delays and cost implications. There is also potential for a developer to be vulnerable to criminal prosecution if due regard is not given to wildlife protection.
In some instances the presence of a protected species on a proposed development site can be used to enable the scheme to offer a level of positive biodiversity gain. This can be the case if adequate provision can be made for in-situ species protection and mitigation, as part of the proposed development, along with new enhanced habitat creation to complement the retained habitat and encourage the existing populations to achieve favourable condition and to flourish in the long term.Top of page.
Rapid Area Analysis
The best design strategies for new development sites ensure that proposals are sensitive and responsive to their surroundings. Rapid Area Analysis is a process that ensures a site's urban or rural context is properly evaluated and understood. The result of the analysis enables the surrounding constraints and opportunities to be taken into account as the design strategy for the site is developed. This ensures that proposals are contextually appropriate and that the site is positively linked into its surroundings.Top of page.
Residential Landscape Design
With the continuous and growing demand for new housing, Liz Lake Associates specialist residential landscape design team is working with a number of house builders to enhance the quality and desirability of schemes. We know from experience that property values are enhanced by providing high-quality landscape design.
Strategic site planning is integral to our work and we work collaboratively as part of the client's team. Once the context is understood and the site has been surveyed either an urban design or landscape strategy can be prepared for the site. This always takes account of a biodiversity strategy and includes linking into the key features of the neighbourhood, creating a space for trees, nature conservation, leisure and play, all with a sense of local distinctiveness that reflects the surroundings and the character of the development. Our rapidly growing portfolio of residential development work includes clients from individual private developers through to well-known national house builders and we have won numerous awards for our pocket parks within residential schemes.
Community engagement is often a key issue for developments and we prepare display boards for public exhibition, leaflets for distribution and websites for responses and consultation. We regularly attend public exhibitions and meetings to explain our client’s proposals and record the public’s views.
We also prepare or contribute to design and access statements and draw on our landscape planning skills to contribute to supporting statements.
Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDs) including living roofs are an integral part of developing any site as the majority of new residential and other development schemes now subscribe to the 'green' agenda, requiring compliance with BREEAM criteria for sustainability in the construction industry. The credits that are obtainable in this scheme for use of land of inherently low ecological value, habitat protection and/or ecological enhancement measures are often invaluable in helping a scheme achieve a high level credit score. We have worked on a large number of Code for Sustainable Homes(CSH) projects, including large residential schemes such as Harlow Gateway and other substantial housing developments in Colchester, Chelmsford, London and Farnborough, along with a number of single unit schemes, mainly in London.Top of page.
Section 106 and Unilateral Agreements
With large development schemes often accompanied by the provision of new amenities for the local community, planning applications now regularly involve measures to improve landscape, visual and/or ecological interests associated with the scheme. These are grouped under the titles of Conditions, Section 106 Agreements, or obligations and unilateral undertakings.
On the 6 April 2010, through the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010, development may also be liable for a charge under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), if the local planning authority has chosen to set a charge in its area.
In general, planning conditions and Section 106 Agreements are directly related to the application site or the needs of the development and involve two parties, while a unilateral undertaking is offered by the applicant and need not be directly related to the application site. The purpose of Section 106 Agreements is that they address needs created by the development, while unilateral undertakings often address wider community or environmental needs.
To illustrate this complex legislation, in one recent case a client wanted to extend an existing factory on the edge of an East Anglian market town. The site was close to a river used for recreation by local people. The planning permission granted contained a condition to plant a tree belt within the site to screen views of the factory extension from adjacent houses. In addition, a Section 106 agreement was made with the local authority to plant more trees on land outside the permission site, to help screen views of the new building from the river. Our client also offered to improve access to the river and manage the land for the benefit of wildlife, and chose to legally bind himself with a unilateral undertaking.Top of page.
Statement of Significance
A Statement of Significance may be required for any development that involves a heritage asset. English Heritage defines a heritage asset as 'A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape positively identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions. Heritage assets are the valued components of the historic environment. They include designated heritage assets (as defined in this Planning Policy Statement) and assets identified by the local planning authority during the process of decision-making or through the plan-making process (including local listing). A Statement of Significance sets out clearly what is important about a heritage asset.
Establishing significance identifies the most important parts of the asset and is a starting point for what is most important to conserve. English Heritage define conservation as 'the process of managing change to a significant place in its setting in ways that will best sustain its heritage values, while recognising opportunities to reveal or reinforce those values for present and future generations'. At the root of this is establishing the significance of the asset and what makes it so special. This looks at four aspects:
Evidential value: the potential of a place to yield evidence about past human activity.
Historical value: the ways in which past people, events and aspects of life can be connected through a place to the present; this tends to be illustrative or associative.
Aesthetic value: the ways in which people draw sensory and intellectual stimulation from a place.
Communal value: the meanings of a place for the people who relate to it, or for whom it figures in their collective experience or memory.
When a planning application is submitted to a local planning authority they are obliged to make a range of statutory consultees aware that change is proposed on a particular site. Some consultees like the Environment Agency, highway authority, utilities providers and County wildlife trusts are always consulted. Some are only consulted if there is a specific issue to be addressed: eg if there is a grade 1 or grade 2* building or registered historic landscape within or near to the proposals, English Heritage will be consulted. If protected species are present on site, Natural England will be contacted.
On most projects it is prudent for a specialist consultant to consult the relevant statutory consultees before an application is made and agree the measures that will be required as part of the proposals. When the local planning authority receives the applicationTop of page.
Strategic Site Planning
Once the context is understood and the site has been surveyed, the urban design/landscape strategy can be prepared for a site. The strategy sets out how the site should be developed, for example, to retain the best of the existing landscape resource of the site. The strategy might identify the best location for open space to achieve the best views out of the site, or to provide an appropriate setting for trees which need to be retained. Alternatively, it might orientate urban space within the site to optimise views. An early and sound design strategy is essential if the best development layout is to be achieved.Top of page.
Sustainable Drainage Systems
The start of the 21st century bought extensive flooding in the UK and action had to be taken. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) were developed in Portland, Oregon USA and have formed the basis of a new approach to surface water drainage. Whereas a drainage system was hidden below ground in a closed system, now it will be visible above ground in an open system that allows space for water. The future form of urban drainage will be more ditches, integrated SuDS solutions and streets and open areas that act as large scale ‘open’ storm drains. Collecting water at source is a key part of SuDS principles and the inclusion of living roofs in projects has significantly increased.
The SuDS Manual produced by Ciria is the ‘bible’ that provides all the detail needed for the drainage engineer to design solutions and calculate volumes etc. but is probably over complicated for most people. Local authorities often have their own guidance and adoption policies which include straightforward examples and ideas for new ways of dealing with surface water.
It is still not clear who will approve and maintain SuDS solutions on new development. The government intends to make SuDS solutions a material consideration for local planning authorities and has put forward a range of ideas for future maintenance responsibilities which they propose to carry forward. The latest information is in Consultation on delivering Sustainable Drainage Systems: A summary of responses to the consultation and the government response 18 December 2014:
There is great potential for landscape architects to contribute to the design of SuDS which are seen as part of Water Sensitive Urban Design strategies.Top of page.
A Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) is national planning legislation designed to protect trees or woodland of particular importance from future removal or harm. The legislation originates from the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and more recently the Planning Act 2008 and the Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 2012.
TPOs prevent the felling, uprooting, topping, lopping or damage to trees, unless consent is given by the local planning authority. Failure to comply with a TPO is an offence and can result in hefty fines up to £20,000 per tree and/or an enforcement notice being placed on site.Top of page.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
he Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 CDM 2015 replace the 2007 CDM Regulations from the 6th April 2015. The CDM Regulations govern the management of health, safety and welfare when undertaking construction projects and apply to ‘construction work’ in the public and private sector work including domestic situations. Designers are identified as one of the ‘Dutyholders’ in the new regulations.
JCLI Practice Note No.8 Revision 1: June 2012 has a definition of ‘construction work’ in relation to landscape work. This document will have to be reviewed with the new regulations but present guidance is that whilst demolition, site clearance, earthworks and hard landscape are ‘construction work,’ tree planting and general horticultural work are not. However there are grey areas like tree planting in hard paving and on roof decks where CDM may well apply; even if they do not, the Health & Safety at Work Act and other health & safety legislation does. Evaluating risk and designing safe places for all people is part of the design process; in developing their designs designers should take account of the CDM regulations, whether or not they apply or not. Health & safety is important and CDM has contributed to a reduction in serious injuries and fatalities linked to the construction industry; everyone should take it seriously.Top of page.
Townscape means different thing to different people but in essence is the visual appearance of a town or urban area; it specifically refers to an urban landscape.
In a survey of Townscape Character, English Heritage is supporting a national programme of surveys of the archaeology, topography and historic buildings of England's historic towns and cities, view it here
In their Townscape Assessment work Hampshire County Council suggests that ‘[E]ach Townscape Assessment is made up of Townscape Character Areas and Townscape Types. Townscape Character Areas are geographically unique areas of a town, and Townscape Types are generic and can occur in different parts of the town. Townscape Character Areas are likely to reflect a high degree of consistency of factors such as layout, vegetation and building type, but be unique in terms of their location. It can also be the case that a Townscape Character Area contains a high degree of small-scale variation and diversity and it is that which creates a strong sense of place’. Link
One of the major advocates of ‘townscape’ was the 20th century architect and urban designer, Gordon Cullen, who through his sympathetic eye and quintessential drawing skills encouraged a new appreciation of the urban fabric.Top of page.
Now that the aesthetic and ecological value of trees is widely acknowledged and appreciated, their protection is firmly established in planning law and must be taken into account in most development schemes.
It is often the case that trees define the limits of construction both above and below ground. In most projects, where there are existing mature trees, their pruning or removal to enable development requires the consent of the local planning authority. If such consent is not sought and granted, and works to trees are carried out, the action can result in a large fine or even a criminal conviction.
Liz Lake Associates deal with tree issues for the majority of our clients and working with qualified arboriculturalists, surveyors and ecologists, we can provide full and accurate topographical surveys showing positions, canopy spread, root protection areas (RPAs) and tree condition to BS 5837 standards. This information is essential to inform development design, for tree removal and replacement especially when related to tree protection orders, and for ecological benefits.Top of page.
Urban design is the art of making places for people. The best examples demonstrate an understanding of the way that places function, take care of practical issues like public safety, and provide appealing and welcoming environments. This area of design is focused on enhancing connections between people and places, making villages, towns and cities more accessible and easy to navigate and providing high-quality public space.
Urban design is key to creating sustainable developments and the conditions for a flourishing economic life, for the prudent use of natural resources and for social progress. Good design can help create lively places with distinctive character; streets and public spaces that are safe, accessible, pleasant to use and human in scale; and places that inspire because of the imagination and sensitivity of their designers. (From By Design, from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment).
Liz Lake Associates can undertake rapid area analysis and urban visual impact assessment to contribute to the design development of a project; we work with clients as part of a collaborative and multi-disciplinary process to shape the physical setting for life in cities, towns and villages. We can respond to design briefs and prepare vision statements. Our expertise is in working alongside other professionals on the cohesive development of single units and groups of buildings, spaces and landscapes to produce the best-quality public realm.Top of page.
Urban Visual Impact Assessment
An Urban Visual Impact Assessment is sometimes required in residential schemes. This is often used to gauge whether important views of landmark buildings or important landscapes should be retained following implementation of development proposals.Top of page.
VVM: Verified View Montages and Visually Verified Montages
VVM can stand for both 'Verified View Montages' and 'Visually Verified Montages' and are fixed, still frame images that are more advanced than photomontages; they are photographic / CAD hybrids that aim to show precisely what effect a future development will have on its setting.
VVMs are increasingly requested as part of Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments for planning applications and absolutely essential if a visual representation of a project is being presented at Public Inquiry.
VVMs are expensive to produce and usually prepared by specialist companies; because of the expense it is prudent to agree the key viewpoints with the local planning authority and the number of images to be prepared.
VVMs are created using global positioning systems (GPS) and precise surveying techniques, to ensure that the 3D model is accurately and reliably positioned in its proposed context. The 3D view is then rendered graphically and some VVMs are so realistic that they resemble a photograph.Top of page.
Water sensitive urban design
Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) integrates water cycle management with the built environment through planning and urban design. There has been a tendency to look at water features and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)* solutions as individual or isolated features but the concept of WSUD is that such features should be multi-functional and an integrated part of the external works design.
The Landscape Institute has promoted the concept of WSUD and has a useful section on their website:Top of page.
If you have been inspired by this website, find out more about becoming a landscape architect at the Landscape Institute's website: Iwanttobealandscapearchitect.com.