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Nicola Huijer

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  1. I'd welcome any views on this subject from the private or public sector please. I'm a landscape architect working in the public sector and our council is currently dealing with a lot of applications for solar farms. In the LVIAs that support these applications we regularly see that the existing hedgerows are often (correctly) identified in the baseline assessment as providing 'screening' or 'filtering views' of the site from the wider landscape. The visual impact of the proposal is then based on the screening provided by those hedgerows in their existing condition. However, the condition (and height) of the hedgerows will change over time, depending on what stage of the management regime is being carried out (and that information is not provided at application stage so is unknown). In almost all cases, the Landscape Strategy simply includes the statement 'hedgerows to be managed to 3m'. Presumably, as the developer understandably wishes to limit and control shading of solar panels. In some cases though, the existing hedgerows are 7m high, so to reduce them to 3m might significantly open up views into the site, having the opposite effect to that described in the LVIAs visual assessment and actually increasing visual impacts. I'm interested to hear views from both sectors as to where in the LVIA the future and ever changing condition is accounted for the in the LVIA process. Solar farm applications are now regularly for 'temporary' permission lasting 50 years and in that time the hedgerows being relied upon for visual screening will need all sorts of management approaches. We surely should all understand that hedgerows cannot be held at a static height or condition. They will cyclicly need coppicing and/or laying for instance, which would remove any visual screening ability for many years. If they really were 'managed to 3m' every year for 50 years (flailed?) they'd eventually just die off. This would not only increase the visual impact of the development on the wider landscape but also lead to a worrying loss of historically characteristic and ecologically valuable hedgerow networks. Where is hedgerow management accounted for in the assessment process and how ought it rightly be accounted for by practitioners carrying out these LVIAs do you think? Thoughts very welcome!
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