Landscape and planning | Oxfordshire County Council

Landscape and planning

Oxfordshire has many attractive landscapes and townscapes, including the iconic River Thames

green field lined with trees

What is landscape?

Landscape is about the interaction between people and places. It does not just mean countryside, and is not just about special or designated landscapes - it is also about everyday landscapes, degraded landscapes and urban spaces.

“Landscape is an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” (European Landscape Convention, 2002)

Landscape Character Assessment - OWLS

The assessment of landscape character is a nationally recognised tool to help us understand and describe landscapes in an objective way, identifying the unique set of elements and features that give each locality its sense of place.

Oxfordshire’s Landscape Character Assessment is the Oxfordshire Wildlife & Landscape Study (OWLS). Oxfordshire’s District Authorities, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, may also have landscape character assessments. National Character Area descriptions are available from Natural England. Together these form a complimentary suite of resources that describe our landscapes at different scales, rather than conflicting resources with one taking precedence over another.

Landscape Character Assessments are used in planning to help assess the sensitivity and capacity of places to change and the impacts and significance of potential development. They can also be used to monitor landscape change and inform land management decisions.

Community Character Assessments

Local communities can also prepare their own landscape character assessment for use in local or Neighbourhood Planning. CPRE have prepared a step-by-step toolkit “A step-by-step guide to Unlocking the Landscape: How to prepare a Community Landscape Character Assessment” which may form a useful starting point.

Designated Landscapes – Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are nationally important for landscape and scenic beauty. Three different AONBs extend into Oxfordshire – The Cotswolds, Chilterns and North Wessex Downs. These landscapes are protected through national and local planning policies, and legislation. Oxfordshire County Council also helps to support the three AONB partnerships.

Last reviewed
03 December 2014
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