Thanks for posting this Tom – it’s good to have a debate about methods and approaches relating to LVIA, and very useful to have this insight!
GLVIA3 provides a framework, rather than an exact recipe, for LVIA. It does require the landscape professional to apply skill in developing a robust method for the assessment, as well as one that is proportional to the scale of the project and the nature of its likely effects.
I think subjectivity will always be an issue with LVIA to some extent – and one of our challenges is to ensure the assessment is transparent and as objective as it can be. GLVIA3 provides the framework in which to do this. Nevertheless, I do think there are some areas that are open to interpretation and that are applied in different ways by different practitioners.
In response to some specific points raised in the article, we should remember that:
GLVIA3 does not advocate matrices and not does it rule them our, but it does warn that over-reliance on matrices is a potential pitfall.
LVIA should not be concluding on the acceptability of proposals, or suitability of housing sites – it should provide an independent assessment of effects to inform a decision. Policy will of course inform plan-making and planning decisions.
An LVIA ‘should be impartial and dispassionate, presenting information and reasoning accurately and in a balanced way and making clear where statements are based on the author's judgement’ (Para 8.9 GLVIA3). We also operate under the LI’s Code of Conduct which requires members to exercise impartial and independent professional judgement.
Effects can be positive negative or neutral – judgements should be explained and clear. GLVIA does not ‘assume development is bad’ (as I think ‘Mr White’ wrote), it asks the assessor to make an informed judgement about the direction of effect and explain the reasoning for the judgement.
The LVIA should not be ‘babble’ (as I think ‘Mr Blue’ calls it), but set out judgements based on a clear and transparent method so that the reasoning applied at different stages can be traced and examined by others (as stated at para 2.24 of the guidelines).
GLVIA3 explains the relationship of LVIA to heritage and ecology (paras 4.37, 4.39, 5.7- 5.11, 8.5), and townscape (Paras 2.6-2.7).
There should be an iterative assessment-design process. Mitigation should include measures to avoid or reduce the adverse effects. GLVIA3 refers to the 'mitigation hierarchy', stating that good practice should aim to achieve mitigation at the highest possible level in this hierarchy (i.e. prevention/ avoidance). If this is not possible, alternative strategies, first of reduction and then of offsetting/remedying (or compensating for) the effects, may need to be explored.
GLVIA includes a glossary on pages 155-159 (requested by ‘Mr Blonde’).
So perhaps a number of the issues being pointed out in the responses to your straw poll are to do with mis-application of the guidelines??
Nevertheless, I do think there are some topics that require further thought and clarification, such as:
How to assign value to views
How to apply geographical extent
Assessing effects on designated landscapes
Thresholds of significance (should there be a universal threshold of significance that applies to all projects?)
Links between LVIA and design merit
It is these questions that the GLVIA Panel is currently discussing, with a view to providing more guidance in these areas.
Lastly, I note you say in your article that “the profession appears to be divided”. In order to better understand what members think of GLVIA3 (including which topics need further clarification) I have suggested the LI run a survey. It will invite comment as to whether Members feel the guidelines are still fit for purpose, whether they need updating (if so, what are the key areas), or a total rewrite.
So do look out for that.
In the meantime, the ‘FAQ’ produced earlier this year may provide some additional help on certain aspects of the guidelines: https://landscapewpstorage01.blob.core.windows.net/www-landscapeinstitute-org/2021/04/TIN-01-21-GLVIA-FAQs.pdf
And this LI Connect site also provides a useful space for us to engage in these discussions! - I would be keen to hear others thoughts on these issues... always happy to talk LVIA!