The Landscape Guide

Colour Plans, Green Belts, Green Towns, Greenways, Minerals, Public Open Space, Sustainability, Urban Design, Village Envelopes


Position Statement

The line between the town and country is too often determined on the basis of expediency - to contain rather than to integrate. As a result, the visual appearance from the outside the village often lacks harmony and quality. Detailed consideration of village envelopes is especially important with regard to the projected need for 4.4m additional homes.

But what should be the nature of transition between urban and rural? How should the urban, or quasi-urban, edge be determined? Should it be controlled by:

  • planning strategies?
  • road patterns?
  • zoning concepts?
  • notional groupings?
  • intrinsic natural criteria, such as the lie of the land?
  • a relationship of open to enclosed space?
  • landscape features, such as the position of existing trees or woodland blocks?

It should be influenced by all, but to an unequal degree. In practice natural criteria on the outside of a development are seldom given equal weight to internal considerations. Villages lack the essential balance between the view from the ‘inside’ and the view from ‘without’.



Greater attention should be paid by local authorities and others (in particular by planning departments) to a more careful and considered treatment of Village edges.

Village (and town) edges should be seen as important transition points between urban and rural uses - as a dynamic interface which, coherently expressed, smoothes and integrates the change.

Careful appraisal of village envelopes to see where improvements could be made, for example by additional tree planting or modest re-contouring, might provide an added framework, not only for more satisfactory visual appearance, but allowing greater flexibility to enable change to be made in the future.


Statutory Powers

Village envelopes are drawn on local plans prepared by district authorities under powers given by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1990. They are generally approved on local inset maps as non-statutory documentation. They provide guidance for development purposes.

Existing village margins, either for reasons of satisfactory landform, contouring or vegetation patterns in relation to development, may already have much to commend them.

More often, village margins become straight-jackets which inhibit exploration or improvement. It is argued that alteration depends upon the availability of land and willingness of landowners to co-operate. But with an appropriate strategy, ways of achieving improvement can often be found, especially if local support is gained.

Grants and advisory assistance are available from national bodies, local authorities and parish councils. Public meetings can provide invaluable guidance, once sufficient interest has been generated. The preparation of landscape schemes, such as village planting or local improvement plans, are an important means of encouraging a more enlightened approach to village envelopes.


Contact R G Patterson