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Thomas Robinson

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  1. Gentles All, Would you like to see some debate on the wave of issues that are affecting practitioners in the north east? I do not mean the factional warfare that surrounds the LI Secretariat, but matters of more local concern such as: the challenge to our profession arising from the NPPF pivot to biodiversity and beauty; the decline of the public sector and the rise of the private; the potential beneficial effects that come from a recreated Newcastle University Landscape School; the attenuated form in which design issues affect our perceptions and work; and the simple hard slog of trying to be contemporary in a political world that is still dominated by traditional ideas of how our villages, market towns, conurbation towns and cities should look? I am seeking a forum within our North East branch to discuss this and other issues. If you are interested, can you declare it in response to this post? Salut and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and let 2023 be a damn sight better that 2022. Tom Robinson
  2. And is it true that members of the Landscape Institute's core - by which I mean landscape architect volunteers and not the paid bureaucracy - are discouraged from responding to posts on this, the Institute's debating site?
  3. I have been discussing with a senior member of the LI what might constitute "low-hanging fruit" that could improve our use of GLVIA 3 without requiring its complete replacement. One of the things that seems immediate is what is the difference between a stand alone LVIA that accompanies a planning application from those that are a part of a formal EIA? This is a matter considered on pages 4 - 9 of the Ed3 and the distinction that emerges is one of terminology and purpose. I think most practitioners are aware of the differences behind the use of such terms as "impact", "effect" and how we are not to use the term "significance" out with an EIA and so use the term "importance", but I doubt we have thought through the implications of having a methodology for use in an EIA that we then use in a non EIA report. In an EIA, according to Ed3, the defining requirement is set out in the European Union Directive 2011/92/EU The assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Obviously, since Brexit the overarching legislation has had to be turned into UK law and so the relevant legislation is the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017. But the intent is largely the same and that is (to quote Ed3), 2, "...the emphasis is on the identification of likely significant environmental effects." The implication of this is that there are insignificant environmental effects and this is made clear in para 1.17 of Ed3: "The Directive is clear that the emphasis is on the identification of likely significant environmental effects. This should embrace all types of effect and includes, for example, those that are positive/beneficial and negative/adverse, direct and indirect, and long and short term, as well as cumulative effects. Identifying significant effects stresses the need for an approach that is in proportion to the scale of the project that is being assessed and the nature of its likely effects. Judgement needs to be exercised at all stages in terms of the scale of investigation that is appropriate and proportionate. This does not mean that effects should be ignored or their importance minimised but that the assessment should be tailored to the particular circumstances in each case. This applies to 'appraisals' of landscape and visual impact outside the formal requirements of EIA as well as those chat are part of a formal assessment." Hence the use of EIA screening, in which the significant areas of effect are agreed with the lpa; and in this process what "significant" means will be based upon professional judgement, lpa or public concerns and, ultimately, case law in planning in which the term "significance" has been tested. But what is to underpin the definition of that which is important in an informal non EIA LVIA? Obviously, part of it will be professional judgement and lpa or public concerns. However, there is no underpinning as to what any of our synonyms in place of significant (such as "important") actually means. I think this is where NPPF (and its equivalent documents in the devolved nations) comes into play. Such planning policy guidance should be able to give each practitioner a framework in which to make judgements. Clearly, it will not do all the heavy lifting, but it could give us all a dimension to work in and so avoid the proclivity to merely personal feeling. Some landscape architects feel that their personal views are the same as professional views, but they should not be. Landscape and visual impact issues are as important in a planning matter as society thinks: no more; no less. The professional view requires an understanding of the site but also an understanding of the societal context in which we are expected to work. There is no reference to NPPF in Ed3 because they were both being written at the same time and the writers of the latter were unaware of the content in the former. But I note with some satisfaction that paragraph 1.5 on Ed3 specifically refers to "planning policy guidance" as being part of the framework within which EIAs are written; and I take this to be a validation of my point. The easy hanging fruit would be to make explicit that NPPF applies to both EIA and non EIA LVIAs; and then to develop some Technical Notes on how that document affects what we do.
  4. Rebecca, Since tomorrow is 1st April, I write now to avoid April Foolishness. Your contribution to my exchange with a LI administrator (who was btw, civility and helpfulness itself) was on 21 March 2022. My reply was on 23 March. It is now 31 March and you have not replied to my last post and so I shall assume that I will not have a reply from you to the outstanding queries raised in that exchange. So, before anything else - and I am going to propose several points - can I ask from what book of good management did you come across the idea that the way to engage with adult men and women is to just ignore them? The site is LVIA; the string is about the elections; my requests have been about the fundamental facts that pertain to any election: who stood, who voted, how did they decide and who won. After a tedious exchange I know three of these facts. But even now, despite my request that someone approaches those who put their names forward, I do not know the names of the candidates or even whether you have asked if those who stood for the GLVIA panel in late 2021 are content to be known? If you have asked and they do not want to be named then please tell me and I will shut up. At present I do not know if you have even asked this. Meanwhile this election - and it does look like this is what is was - is short of natural justice. People should know who stood, who voted, how they formed their decision and who was elected. To obtain these simple facts has been like pulling teeth. I am a member of this Institute and I deprecate this costiveness with simple information about how that institute works. This is not a good way to encourage people who want to be engaged on a professional level with cardinal issues that go to the heart of a significant area of the work that we do. The profession I entered in the late 70s was the one that spoke of urban design, nature conservation gain, landscape and environmental assessment, landscape infrastructure, landscape and environmental planning and even project management; and it was the influence of pioneering landscape architects who forced the very distinction between a development masterplan and a landscape masterplan. We have lost a lot of this ground to other professions and have resiled from the larger issues and allowed other professions to cut away our skirts (that is a reference to a well know Punch cartoon in the 1900s - look it up), to the extent that we are being ignored in national debate on issues to do with the environment (natural and urban). One of the reasons why we have lost ground is that we are intellectually incurious. The effect of that has been to make us retreat to our fastnesses and that has made us small and look enamoured of an approach to our subject that is rule driven, judgemental, riddled with jargon and preposterous in its blanket conclusions to a degree that defies comprehension - all of which applies to how a larger part of the wider world sees GLVIA 3. I chose this profession, the 70s, as a student of history and so came from a discipline of words and thoughtful speculation. I will not ask that you name the last man or woman whose writing about landscape architecture punched its way into the contemporary design debate, but I'd bet a ton against a pony that you couldn't. That is because there has been no such person since the late 70s - early 80s. GLVIA 3 reveals all of this absence of deep thinking. It is held in contempt by too many thoughtful people involved in planning who see it as just another pointless hurdle to overcome. No one believes in the authority of our judgements on landscape and visual impact, though they do use our words to justify independently arrived at decisions. They think our absolute judgements on contingent matters to be something that they are obliged to pay heed to by planning law, but they then look to see who the client is, and discount our conclusions according to the planning weight. We are, intellectually, like Paris theologians, puritans, Cartesians or Marxists: sooner or later someone is going to reveal the truth against our nostrums. That is happening now with the planning switch to an emphasis on biodiversity and what that means. Ecology is important, of course, but it not more important than landscape: the two are sides of the same coin. But we are becoming side lined in national debate and that will continue for as long as refuse to step up to the plate with demonstrations that our discipline is cogent, comprehensible, authoritative and not simply something that can pimped out to one side or the other in a development argument. Tom
  5. Dear Rebecca, Many thanks for your post. It was on 23d December last year that I asked the LI who stood, who voted and who won in the apparent elections for the GLVIA panel. I used the term vote because that was the term used in the email I received from the HEAD OF EDUCATION, STANDARDS AND ENGAGEMENT to announce the results of my application to join the panel following the invitation to members who were interested in the issue. When the information I asked about was not forthcoming, I added a further request about how the voting was decided, given that I did not know anyone on the panel, nor they me, nor was there anything like a hustings. It is now 23rd March 2022. It has taken three months to receive the basic information of who was elected, who voted and by what criteria this was this done; and even now, I do not know who stood. I have been told that this is information that cannot be given out without the consent of those who applied; but despite numerous requests, I still do not know whether you have contacted the GLVIA panel applicants to ask if they are content to be named. This seems like a slow way to respond to some reasonable questions put by a member of the Institute who cares about the matter at hand. It took four months to write the Constitution of the United States: that was done in the 18th century by hand written letters, meetings and coach post, and it involved 55 individuals who had to report to thirteen separate governances. But, and I am sure you must agree, the response to my requests has ben dismissive and this even when I asked informally and by private email correspondence. Why there should be this apparent reluctance to give information that is merited by simple notions of equity completely eludes me. After the last election to the GLVIA panel, the Institute quickly organised an on-line seminar of all the applicants (successful or otherwise) with the panel members to discuss issues of concern about LVIA, and obviously, in doing that, everyone was identified. Regarding your contribution to this exchange, thank you for setting out in your point 2 the criteria you used. Can I suggest that, in future, you set out what you want from applicants to this panel in some detail and, at least, include the bases you set out yesterday. If you are going to elect and not select members, you must make your judgements transparent. Otherwise you may give rise to accusations of operating selection by "confirmation bias". This undoubtedly is something I am sure you do not wish to do, but it is raised by your inclusion of the "ability to make a useful contribution to discussions" as one of the criterion - what on Earth does that mean given that we all write and speak English and live in the UK? That said, there is a whiff of something arbitrary in this process and joining the GLVIA panel seems more like joining an exclusive and rather small London club. I say this because, although you note in your first point that neither my (nor anyone's) information held from earlier applications was deliberately ignored in the assessment, you make clear in your subsequent clause that it was. Without meaning to be unkind, this kind of lack of clarity - doubtless unintended - can be found in GLVIA 3, and it is exactly the reason why I wish to join the panel. I shall continue in that aspiration because I work in this field, I am dismayed by the poor quality of the thinking behind too many LVIAs and I see the third edition of GLVIA as contributory. I can do no less. Regards, Tom
  6. Hi Abi, Now I am confused. I thought you were going to ask the candidates whether they were content to be known? Are you now waiting for permission from someone before you ask these people if they can be named? Also, regarding the form above, are you telling me that the information I had previously sent to the panel, based upon a series of questions the panel sent out before the Covid epidemic, was deliberately ignored because I had not duplicated the form in my latest application? Does this also mean there was not a standard set of questions put to the candidates based upon this form? How on Earth did the members on the panel who voted then make a decision? I realise that you are a proxy in this and have to pass my queries on to others, so perhaps you could ask the head of the GLVIA panel to reply to my queries on this forum, directly? It is, after all, the place advocated by the Institute for such discussion. In the meantime, many thanks for your help in uncovering some of the information I requested. It must seem like a thankless job, but I appreciate your help. Regards, Tom
  7. Good afternoon Abi, I was wondering whether you have been able to progress in the requests for information set out in my last post a week ago? Regards, Tom
  8. Good morning Abi, Thanks for your prompt reply. I appreciate you wouldn't know the criteria or scoring used, so could you ask the head of the panel to confirm whether or not the analysis you refer to was based upon the application form and how it was scored? I am content to leave my application form on this exchange as it is. Regarding contacting other candidates, the purpose of knowing who applied is twofold: interest in GLVIA is a minority activity, so knowing the interests of other members on this topic is a worthwhile thing; and it just seems to me to be in the interests of transparency that candidates know who stood. The appearance of secrecy - whether intentional or not - is discouraging to members and just plain wrong. Regards, Tom
  9. Abi, Two final things before this is closed. First, can you confirm that this the application form is what was assessed and graded? Application to join the GLVIA Advisory Panel. Name, contacts details etc Tom Robinson Robinson Landscape Design Ltd., The Studio, Hedgeley, North Bank, Haydon Bridge, Hexham, NE47 6LY Tel: 01434 684100 Mob: 07789 643 280 t.robinson@robinsonlandscapedesign.co.uk Qualifications Current employer and position Number of years in post and description of current role and responsibilities B.Phil. Landscape Design, CMLI Director, Robinson Landscape Design Ltd 20 years responsible for strategic and commercial management of RLD; client liaison; design quality; project leader; author of all RLD reports on LVIA & EIA documents. Extent of knowledge of GLVIA3 I am the sole author of any RLD document that includes landscape or visual impact assessment. I am therefore familiar with all stages of the GLVIA 3 process. Extent of experience with applying GLVIA3 (5, 10, or more than 10 years) I have been applying GLVIA guidelines since Edition 1 in 1995, and used Edition 2 from 2002 and then Edition 3 since 2013 Experience of reviewing assessments which have been or claim to have been undertaken using GLVIA3 I act as an expert witness in planning public inquiries and planning court cases. Given the adversarial nature of the planning system in appeals, I have always to read, review and assess LVIA reports that support a contrary position to that of my client (which can be a public body, local authority, private person or private sector company). My work writing and reviewing LVIAs has led me to realise that action needs to be taken to improve standards. Experience providing training related to GLVIA In the last fifteen years I have trained one person to author LVIAs up to GLVIA standard. I have trained numerous people on carrying out certain landscape and visual survey and analysis tasks relating to the process. Experience with participating in Advisory Panels or similar I have presented to Advisory Panels. What is your opinion of GLVIA3? What do you think are its strengths & weaknesses? I think GLVIA 3 is in need of refurbishment and possibly replacement. The problems vary and include issues of structure, context and meaning, to conceptual issues about what we are trying to do. 1. The structure is busy and distracting in that it uses boxes to point to other chapters whilst also highlighting some information in Boxes 3.1 and 5.1 – what is the significance of these boxes? What is the purpose of having a Part 1 and part 2 when the former is only 22 pages and the latter 132 pages? 2. The substance of the text makes no reference to NPPF. This makes no sense at all to me, since by far the greatest use of GLVIA 3 is as the methodology behind reports that are used in the planning process. If we do not identify how GLVIA relates to NPPF then barristers may insist that adverse impacts arising out of the guidelines are not necessarily the same as adverse impacts as the term is used in the Framework. I have heard this point being made in planning inquiries. NPPF recognises the importance of character and value: we should run towards it and affirm the link between the Framework and GLVIA. 3. Whilst GLVIA3 refers to the European Landscape Convention, it does not make clear the implications of the Convention on the work we do as professionals. If all natural and man-made environments are landscapes, what are the parameters that mandate us as professionals in the understanding of landscape to express an opinion that a change from one landscape type to another is adverse? It seems to me that this has to involve a consideration of whether the change is characteristic of the area; it also requires an assessment of the effect on physical features of that landscape; and an assessment of landscape value and the degree to which this is affected by the change. Significantly, these are matters that come up in NPPF in several areas. But all too often we have development on green field sites being ipso facto adverse (and I have read LVIAs that state emphatically all new housing is an adverse landscape and visual impact). This cannot be right: we must look deeper into the nature of the change. 4. What is sensitivity other than an artificial construct by landscape architects that combines two judgements of landscape that are incommensurable? The definition given in the glossary to GLVIA3 says that it is “A term applied to specific receptors, combining judgements of the susceptibility of the receptor to the specific type of change proposed and the value related to that receptor.” GLVIA 1 defined it as “Vulnerability of sensitive receptor to change”; and GLVIA 2 defined only Landscape Sensitivity, which it defined as “The extent to which a landscape can accept change of a particular type and scale without unacceptable adverse effects on its character.” The earlier definitions have the merit of being understandable explanations that enable reasoned judgements to be made; that of GLVIA3 is meaningless. 5. The constructed term in GLVIA3 has the added dis-benefit of hijacking a consideration of landscape value as a perceptual and feature of the landscape. Since the value that people place in their local landscapes and the hierarchy of international, national, regional and local designations of value is an aspect of landscape that NPPF and recent planning appeals have signified as important, it makes no sense to trap this important consideration into being one side of a matrix that is used to determine sensitivity. A proper understanding of landscape value and visual amenity value is an area that has further to go in LVIA work. 6. Finally, I do not believe that assessments have to be in Manichean world of good or bad. Some change is neither good nor bad; and we should not be afraid to say so. Please summarise your main motivation for wanting to join the Advisory Panel and what skills, experience, perception and contribution you think you will bring. Because I use this text and I think it is flawed; and those flaws enable wide disparities of judgement between professionals; and I think this shows the profession in a poor light. Any other comments None Secondly, since you know the names and contact details of all of members who applied, why don't you write to them if they are content for their identities to be known? Thanks Tom
  10. Abi, Thank you for that info on who voted and who is joining the panel. It is unfortunate that the information has to extracted in this way. I hope you can supply the list of applicants and also confirm that the panel when voting was not working to a matrix criteria but was simply forming a judgement on what the applicants wrote. Next time you should make that clear. I am also pleased that you recognise how infelicitous language led me a conclusion that this was a vote and not an appraisal of capacities. Finally, I am not dissatisfied that I did not join the panel; I am disappointed. I am dissatisfied however with the process and with the slowness shown to give some basic information on applicants and the decision making process. The distinction is important, for your suggestion paints me as a bad loser and I expect to hear no more of that. My position is one of a member puzzled about the secretive processes involved in joining a technical panel of the Institute.
  11. Abi, While you are writing your response to my last post, I went into my archive on GLVIA exchanges with the Institute and came across the email that informed me that I was not to join the GLVIA panel. I was told this (but not by you, of course): Thank you for your application to join the GLVIA Advisory Panel. Seven applications were received and every single applicant brought valuable insights to the Panel. However, we needed to make a choice and decided that each Panel member should vote for a first, second and third choice candidate. First choice candidates were allocated 3 points, second choice candidates 2 points and 3rd choice candidates 1 point (one Panel member shared their 3rd place between two people, giving each half a point). Scores were added up for each candidate and the top two scoring candidates given the two available places. The top two scores were 6.5 and 6 points. Your score was 4. That sounds more like a vote than an assessment of candidates capacities, not least because there is no mention of "meeting the criteria using the appropriate scoring or grading". Please could you put my unease to rest and confirm my simple requests: who stood; who voted; who is joining the panel? And could you tell the candidates (now and in future) what were these criteria? I thought working with the Institute was something commendable for members to do and that it was encouraged by the Institute. This process around the panel seems to be unusually secretive and feels more like an application to join some London gentlemen's club.
  12. Abi, Good morning and thank you for replying. I accept your distinction between an election and an application process. That said, from your reply, I have to ask what was that selection process and what were the criteria that you are referring to? I do not know anyone on the panel, nor they me. So how did they evaluate a candidates' suitability? In particular what was the scoring or grading metric that you were using? And who was successful? Surely, you can tell us this directly? At the last invitation to join this panel in 2018, the LI arranged a zoom/teams meeting where all the candidates and the panel discussed LVIA issues that individuals thought were of concern. Naturally, that meant that the LI informed all candidates of the identities of other candidates. How was this possible then but is impossible now? Finally, you refer me to the current panel membership. Does this now include the successful applicants? Regards Tom
  13. A number of people (myself included) applied to join the GLVIA Panel following the LI call for two new members. I have been told a vote was taken on who from the applicants should be elected to the panel and that I failed, which is fair enough. But thinking about this further, the lack of any knowledge of the process is disrespectful to members who stood and the lack of transparency makes the very idea of an election questionable. So can I ask the following: Who stood; who was elected; who voted; what was the voting system; and given that there was no attempt to organise hustings for the candidates, how on Earth were the voting decisions made? I cannot be the only candidate who did not know anyone on the panel. I asked informally for this information and was told the information was in some way impossible to release without breaching the privacy of other candidates. That doesn't make any sense to me. So I would be grateful if others who stood would also ask the Institute for clarity. Secret elections vitiate the point of elections.
  14. Can you please give us the result of the September pool of views on GLVIA3?
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