The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 2 Landscape plans for public goods

Visual landscape plans: SCENIC EVALUATION

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Evaluation of scenic quality

Scenic evaluations can be made by trained experts or by the general public, with or without special methods. The cheapest method is to employ experts. This is how, in the 1940s, Britain 's National Parks were selected and their boundaries defined. Since that time, many attempts have been made to involve more representative groups, by transporting people in busses or showing them colour slides in projection rooms. Public opinion surveys, of the type used to assess the popularity of TV programmes, or predict election results, can also be used. One can only praise these efforts to make SQA more democratic. But, so long as there is a high degree of consensus about scenic quality, they are not of critical importance. The first task is to produce and publish maps. Members of the public, and other experts, will soon draw attention to contentious areas. The information inputs to a Scenic Quality Assessment are as follows: 1) desk studies by experts and non-experts - using maps - using aerial photographs - using eye-level photographs (still or video) - using remote sensing data 2) field studies by experts - geographers - earth scientists - social scientists - physical planners - physical designers - aestheticians 3) field studies by non-experts - chosen by statistical sampling techniques - chosen because they inhabit the area - chosen because they make tourist visits to the area 4) cultural studies by experts and non-experts - archaeologists - historians - literary critics - art critics The scope of the judgements made will depend on the observers' experience. This makes inter-regional and inter-national comparisons difficult. But since the purpose of the SQA will usually be to guide local planning decisions, the comparability of assessments between regions is not the matter of first importance.