The effects of artificial lighting on landscape character and visual amenity: Assessment and interdisciplinary working.
‘Landscape character’ is intrinsically linked to a variety of aspects including visibility (views), ecology, heritage and lighting. Assessment of effects (e.g. of development) on landscape character and visual amenity regularly forms a chapter of an Environmental Statement (i.e. an Environmental Impact Assessment) as a ‘Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment’ (LVIA), and are most often assessed for the daytime, with other times of the day often overlooked. Landscape character of a location immediately after dusk, during the night and immediately prior to dawn are recognised as being different to, but as important as, that described during the daytime, and accordingly the process LVIA of is evolving. The process of iterative design, and assessment of environmental effects (including those on humans), is becoming an increasingly multi-disciplinary task, and requires a common understanding and multi-functional solutions.
This webinar aims to provide a sound basis to help further the effectiveness of lighting professionals working in partnership with landscape (and other environmental) professionals on their designs and assessment areas in an informed and co-ordinated way.
|For LVIAs, do most Local Authorities (LAs) provide a standard baseline set of maps and landscape descriptors for the landscape/geology element of the LVIA documentation? Do many LAs charge developers for this information?||LAs do usually have their own landscape character assessment publications or data, which is usually available gratis. But these are a snapshot in time (and may be ‘out of date’) and usually of a different geographic scale to a specific development consideration, so project-specific assessments should also be undertaken – in the knowledge of the development type being considered.|
|Is it likely the UK will develop its own guidance after Brexit?||The UK has its own guidance already and in fact this is used elsewhere outside of the UK. This guidance will continue to be developed.|
|Do you use satellite images when assessing landscape character and the impact of lighting?||It can be used as one tool – but nothing replaces the ‘experience’ aspect of being on the ground – brings in the ‘human’ view also.|
|Given the growing issue of light pollution, do you feel that governance is likely to become stricter in terms of light spill from street lighting, and potentially restrict placement of poles in the countryside?||I think safety will always be the first consideration, so if it can be demonstrated that lighting is needed, certainly over and above other considerations, then it will be provided – the question is then ‘what is the best solution for the lighting?’, and this should be properly informed and considered, in an interdisciplinary way, not just using ‘stock’ solutions that don’t relate to the specific situation. I don’t believe that enough consideration is being given to the necessity of the lighting or the multi-aspect considerations, and improving this is the key to doing a better job with lighting. Lighting itself might not be the problem, it is the adverse effect of the lighting that can be the problem.|
|Can a non-valued landscape ever be turned into a valued landscape?||Landscapes are dynamic, and value is affected by changes in other landscapes (i.e., it is partially ‘relative’) and can also be affected by changes in policy – e.g., if a landscape characteristic becomes ‘rare’ because of changes elsewhere or if a landscape is newly designated.|
What differentiates a landscape of certain value from a ‘valued landscape’ is not clearly defined but there is some case law on this – It does not need to be designated (but designations clearly indicate it is valued); it needs to be more than ‘just’ popular locally or ‘liked’, and should have ‘particular (physical) attributes’ – so something tangible or recognisable (but more than just appreciated) to others (even if not visible from outside the site), and one valued landscape element may not make a valued landscape.
Key considerations of value (not exhaustive) that may relate to dark skies are: Scenic Quality, Rarity, Conservation Interests, Recreational Value and Perceptual aspects.
|To what extent are assessments at odds with the need to support industry and the provision of additional housing?||Assessments should be used as a design tool – to inform the designers of how to improve their designs to make schemes as acceptable as possible to the developer and determining-authorities. All too often assessments have been used to almost justify a scheme retrospectively (maybe asked for too late by planning authorities) – without having provided the input into the design – which misses the point completely, makes granting of consents harder and does not result in the most sustainable (environmentally or otherwise).|
|Is there a CCT that gives the best effect where lighting in required?||In terms of landscape character, the lighting should be either complementary to / reflective of the character, absent (or perceived to be absent), or character-forming (i.e., forms a key characteristic) – this could partially relate to the CCT used/present. CCT is directly relatable to certain ecological effects and health effects on humans, so only affects landscape indirectly in that sense.|
|The Ironbridge lighting installation shown in the presentation slide is now a permanent scheme, with different options for different occasions. Is this an acceptable compromise template for other structures of national interest?||Potentially, yes – but each situation should be assessed on its own merits.|
|How do you think we can mitigate the adverse effects of light emitted from premises?||I’m not a lighting designer, but first and foremost the designers need to understand what they are trying to achieve – what are the various objectives – which needs expert interdisciplinary input – then lighting designers (and others involved in the design process) can let their design skills loose – producing elegant multifunctional design solutions. I know of work being done to consider glazing in the same way as illuminated advertisements, to help understand the impacts of internal light sources, and there is increasing knowledge on preferred environmentally-considerate light spectrum lighting to help lighting designers find solutions. But I think manufacturers have a huge role to play in producing ingenious lighting solutions which direct the right light to the right locations, without glare, whilst minimising the visibility of the light source itself – in my own personal experience of just trying to find garden lighting that I would consider to be environmentally-conscious has been very difficult – certainly when the price is taken into consideration.|
|Please can you qualify what is a receptor? Is it building a person, a burrow or all of the above? This often come up from planners but the receptors are not detailed.||Receptors are anything that would receive an ‘impact’ from change (whether it be a habitat, a person, an animal, landscape elements etc.) and would normally be ascertained by whomever is undertaking the assessment.|
|Is a simple curfew for exterior lighting a good thing in protected areas?||This is one useful tool – but a bit of a blunt one, but the question remains ‘what is the objective of the lighting’ – if a certain level of illumination is required, e.g., due to vehicle and/or pedestrian flows, but lower levels are required when there is less, or when ambient levels (e.g., from moonlight) are higher, that would be ‘smarter’ – but as a less smart solution it’s a good start. Depending on the ‘receptor’ of the potential benefit, curfews may not be appreciated if it is timed ineffectually (e.g., if only between 2am and 5am when most people are in bed).|
|Regarding vehicle headlights, how can this be controlled?||This is outside my specialist area, but the impacts and effects of car headlights can be reduced using road alignment (in relation to receptor locations) and screening features, such as embankments/cuttings, evergreen vegetation, or physical/visual ‘barriers’.|
|Recent research has shown that street lighting has a much-reduced impact on the night landscape. What steps would you like to see to control inappropriate sports, commercial and domestic exterior lighting?||Less impact doesn’t necessarily mean enough has been done – street lighting could still be improved significantly in my view, especially as better understanding of the objectives improves and the tools available for lighting professionals also improves. Inappropriate sports or commercial lighting should, by definition, not be happening, and should be controlled as part of development consents (and hopefully implementation of the APPG’s Dark Skies policy recommendations will help significantly). Relying on ‘complaints’ is a barrier to improving ‘poor lighting’ – the public don’t necessarily know what they are entitled to (in terms of being caused a nuisance, for example), don’t want to ‘complain’ and might not even want to talk to their neighbour about it – so a code of practice of implementing, operating and managing lighting would be a better route to my mind – this could improve best practice, and encourage better products and advice / education to be provided (to everyone, not just professionals). If people know what they must do, and why they are being asked to do it, they will have a better idea of what others should be doing also, raising awareness and confidence to challenge non-compliers.|
|What would you say to councils that are not taking light in the landscape as seriously as, perhaps, they should?||I think the time is right now for embracing the renewed push for better, smarter lighting, higher quality environments, healthier places, darker skies and saving money. I would be happy to provide talks to Councils to help them improve their knowledge of this area, so whilst I understand that it might be looked at as ‘yet more things to think about’ when resources are tight, I do believe there are bigger gains to be had out of the effort that they put in now – and not get left behind as this area develops!|
|Councils seem reluctant to invest in engaging suitable professionals to undertake visual impact assessments. Even more alarming is, in some cases, a reluctance to accept the advice given. How do you want this to change? Do you think budgets are the main driver for this?||It is certainly true that sufficient budgets are crucial for planning authorities to be able to undertake a sufficiently thorough job. Internal dedicated landscape professionals (within local authorities) are getting thinner on the ground, but there is certainly an impression of reluctance to get even brief professional assistance in from third party professionals, and there are many examples of non-landscape professionals undertaking landscape and visual appraisals, which is not going to result in defendable, robust, sustainable decision-making. There is a better job to be done in terms of education in relation to knowledge in environmental and other specialisms for non-specialists, especially in terms of making savings and using the appropriate resources in an efficient way at the right time in a project also. I often see insufficient transparent evidence of how decisions have been arrived at in terms of environmental considerations, maybe through lack of knowledge, information or ‘weight’ which is being applied by different authorities to different aspects of a development proposal (depending on to which aspect the heavier pressures relate). The answer is in demanding better development proposals which clearly demonstrate environmentally sustainable design solutions based on a strong thorough (but proportionate) evidence base – not just relying on schemes of mediocre standards that don’t respond to the specifics of a location. An independent design review (to rate the proposals on different environmental and design aspects) may help with this, but is rarely called upon.|
|How do you know professionals are suitable for interdisciplinary work? Is there a national register of such resources?||If you undertake an EIA you are obliged to check that you have suitably qualified professionals involved. The LI has a list of chartered members, as no doubt will other organisations (such as CIEEM – for ecologists) and, if the professional institution is a licensed body of the Society for the Environment, then their members may also be on the register of Chartered Environmentalist professionals.|
|Is the new lighting of Stadiums for TV causing more problems for the lit environment due to the need for high vertical illuminances?||Whilst I don’t have direct experience of this, it seems almost inevitable that, if events are held at night, and higher illumination levels are needed purely for TV (which may change if cameras improve in lower light conditions), from more sideways-on angles, in stadiums without roofs, upward lighting is going to increase during these events and increase impacts on receptors. The question will additionally remain – does the increased skyglow and visibility of the light sources (during limited periods) become a new key characteristic, changing the landscape character at and remote from the stadium (ignoring other indirect effects on ecology, for example) become unacceptable overall (in environmental and planning terms)? Better education and consideration of the problems and solutions is needed to avoid unnecessary adverse effects, alongside more ‘weight’ being given to these considerations – which may improve if the NPPF integrates the APPG’s recommended policies and these become embedded in local policy.|
|To what extent is there a common understanding and vocabulary of terms and assessment meanings?||Terminology and vocabulary used in assessments is usually very specific in its meaning and as has been defined in the assessment methods (and associated methodology) so, aside from more generally applied terms, there is unlikely to be much in common between terms in different types of assessments.|
|Do you consider bat and other habitats as part of the landscape or deal with this separately?||Bats are a specific ecological receptor (not a landscape receptor) and may be an individual receptor, or as a population of bats at a given locality. The population of bats may be considered to be of sufficient importance for the roost site to be designated (e.g., SSSI) – which may not be a ‘landscape designation’, but would indicate a valued conservation-related aspect of the landscape – so there is a potential indirect relationship between the bat and landscape in that sense. Similarly, there may be a relationship between dark Green Infrastructure present (or retained), as a bat habitat, even if it does not contain a roost and is used only for feeding or as a movement corridor, and the landscape character this creates at night, whilst additionally being important for the continuing use of bats (potentially creating an ecological effect). This is an example of why interdisciplinary working and multifunctional design solutions are important.|
|Are the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Third Edition (2013) only available to Landscape Institute members?||The publication is available to purchase by anyone – but please note that there are complementary guidance documents that are also referenced by landscape professionals when undertaking LVIAs.|
|There are situations where we don’t have any control of which light and where it’s located – I’m thinking specifically of aviation lighting of wind turbines. How do you consider the impact of such lighting on receptors when it’s so different to other existing/well known sources (street lighting, building lighting etc)?||In landscape and visual terms, it is assessed in exactly the same way as for other developments. Gaining an accurate understanding of the change is the (at present) quite difficult due to the complexities around visualising proposals accurately.|
|From my experience in any landscaping schemes lighting is at the bottom of the list and any cuts in budget directed at savings in the lighting aspect first. This limits what can be proposed by designers and accepted hence may not provide the best solution for the landscape due to the budget constraints.||The biggest hurdle I come across is lighting not being considered at the start of the project, and even only being considered as a ‘reserved matter’ – this needs to change to ensure that it is given a core importance alongside other design and environmental considerations and there is a responsibility on all professionals to advocate (and promote, proactively) this approach.|
|For residential schemes, presumably there will be an uplift in lighting from the permitted lighting strategy due to night time security lighting etc. Is this catered for within the guidance, and if so is there an attributable uplift afforded to that? Presumably this would be more of an impact for larger residential schemes.||This is not specifically allowed for in landscape and visual terms. In general terms, assessments (especially in relation to development that requires an accompanying EIA) the ‘worst case scenario’ is normally expected to be assessed (within known parameters) following the ‘precautionary principle’. Assumptions when undertaking the assessment and weaknesses in knowledge (or the assessment itself) should always be acknowledged to allow decision-makers to have a good understanding of matters.|
|Please can you give any examples of LCAs which have integrated Dark Sky characteristics well?||None specifically – but supporting documents for AONB Management Plans tend to have the strongest information on this aspect.|
|When talking in terms of coloured light it is also going to relate to location too. Certain coloured lights can give mis-information and should be avoided in certain locations especially in costal environments or near airports. It should also be noted it is not just bats which are affected by light, they just tend to be the most publicised.||Yes, light colour (and spectral distribution) should respond to the various environmental and functional considerations, and also to policy objectives for a given locality.|
|Would you expect the receptors to be qualified by the planners or the planning department , the ecologist or does the lighting engineer have to make assumptions?||Potential receptors would, first and foremost, be ascertained by the professional undertaking the assessment – and many of these may be ‘scoped out’ of further consideration very early on in the assessment process (demonstrating that you were aware of the receptor but that they have been included/excluded from further assessment as appropriate, based on a particular justifiable reason). Where there are different professionals involved and where there is either a planning consultant or project co-ordinator involved then the various receptors should be reviewed to help ensure everyone is aware of each other’s findings and that there are no unnecessary overlaps or accidental omissions (for consistency). The planning authority can be usefully consulted after the baseline work has been done to get an agreement in principle that the receptor list is appropriate (or otherwise). Interdisciplinary communication and co-ordination are important in this process.|
|Your summary includes that “Landscape character of a location ..immediately prior to dawn are recognised as being different to, but as important as, that described during the daytime,” Could you please comment on why pre-dawn is different to dusk or night?||The ‘quality’ (and quantity) of light (as perceived) changes between ‘night’ and daytime and there are 10 orders of magnitude of natural light intensity between them (8 occurring from twilight to full darkness). In pure terms there is little difference between sunset and sunrise, although dawn is often a ‘clearer’ time of day (in terms of air pollutants present) affecting the spectral distribution perceived, but the biggest difference relates to the ‘experience’ or perception – people often know the context to a sunrise or sunset (consciously) and their visual systems are also likely to ‘see’ it (i.e. on a physiological level) differently (when either adapting from a ‘dark or dark state of vision’ as the context).|