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  Handing on
our Heritage

Supporting Technical Papers: Landscape aspects

by Mr Roger J. Cooper, United Kingdom


The landscape we see is an expression of the participation of mankind in the shaping of his environment. One instrument for landscape change is the power of socio-economic forces. Transport is an agent for such change by permitting the equalisation of socio-economic systems and with it the homogenisation of landscapes.


The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (1996) notes that one of Europe’s greatest riches lies in its biological and landscape diversity, but also notes that this diversity is under threat. Its vision is to reduce that threat, partly by seeking to strengthen biological and landscape considerations in all socio-economic sectors, including transport. More recently, the European Landscape Convention (2000) acknowledges that European landscapes represent a common resource. It is important therefore to co-operation towards its protection, management and planning. This applies to all landscapes: natural, rural, urban, peri-urban and transfrontier. Specifically, Article 5 lays down the general measures necessary to implement the Convention. Actions include the systematic accommodation of landscape consideration into various policy sectors, which may either directly or indirectly impact upon it, including transport.


Such recognition in the framing and implementation of socio-economic policies is of vital importance. History has shown us that transport is a key factor in changing the relationship between town and country, such that local responses are exposed to and potentially overwhelmed by external influences.


The overall transport corridor consists of the on-line element viz the vehicle; the track; the accommodation works (ie. all those required to engineer the route into the landscape) and the ancillary structures; and the off line element – that is the zone around the route which is impacted by it. The characteristics of the on-line elements, and consequently some of the potential for impact on its surrounds, will vary from mode to mode. All modes, however, share certain characteristics which impact upon the landscape, namely: movement; linearity; geometry; disturbance; externality. Each mode, however, will have a characteristic signature. Modal choice can thus influence impact.


Movement in the landscape will always attract the eye. The movement of transport is highly directional and concerted. It penetrates rather than permeates the landscape, although perhaps less so for water borne traffic. The linearity of transport systems can exhibit great continuity through the landscape which tends to be divisive. It challenges the coherence of a landscape and has fragmentary effects. Transport also brings disturbance to the landscape as a source of noise, movement and light, thus compromising tranquillity and the natural order of systems through which it passes. Externality is a marked characteristic of modern transport systems. Indeed the inter-urban transport corridor, by its very raison d’ętre, is inherently alien to the countryside through which it passes.


It is often the very remoteness, either actual or relative inaccessibility, of Europe’s wildscapes that has helped to preserve them as such. The same is true of distinctive, traditional landscapes. At strategic level, therefore, it is important that where policies or programmes either directly or indirectly extend or improve the transport linkages of such sensitive areas, so making them more permeable to external influences, that the potentially destabilising effects on their landscape equilibrium is recognised.


Where implemented, the transport route imposes its own aesthetic on the immediate landscape. A multi-disciplinary approach to mitigation at all scales and stages of the development process is necessary therefore if integration with the landscape is to be successful. The guiding principle should be that although the mitigation is targeted at off setting the characteristics of the transport corridor, its method of delivery should have its origins in the character of the landscape that is affected. 


Moreover, mitigation should not simply just figure as applied treatments, but rather be fully integrated with scheme engineering. Design and operating standards need to be flexible. Harmonisation of standards across Europe in the interest of operational efficiency must be matched in areas of recognised threat to landscape diversity by the ability to design infrastructure in recognition of the capacity of the affected landscape to absorb it.


In respect of the characteristics of the transport corridor, the impact of movement can really only be mitigated by screening. For linearity, the objective should be to break down the directionality and continuity through the corridor. Recognition of the local characteristics, rather than standardised solutions, is important to reducing externality. Moreover, it is usually better to harness or channel the natural processes of the area in pursuit of scheme design objectives so as the sooner to achieve an equilibrium and a seamless blend into its surroundings. Finally the successful mitigation of a scheme’s principal landscape impacts should not be undermined by lack of attention to its ancillary elements.


Integration of the landscape considerations and objectives into the frameworks, policies, standards, and actions involved in the development and management of transport infrastructure in Europe would be an important contribution towards preserving landscape diversity and reducing the risk of the continent’s landscapes becoming uniform and monotonous. Respect for, and understanding of, the influence of transport projects is a fundamental requirement that underpins the future of European landscapes as a continuing source of natural and economic productivity – as well as pleasure – wonderment and inspiration.  

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Mr. Sandro Cafolla t/a  Design By Nature  (Ire). Monavea, Carlow, Ireland. Eircode R93 T289 
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