Southwest Environmental Limited
Level 26, 1 Bligh Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia


Environmental Consultancy Services to Industry, Business and Individuals

Landscape and Visual Assessment

SWEL can provide a fixed price Landscape and Visual Assessment (LVA) for your project. Please email some plans to us, and we will respond likely within 48 hours. If you are still at the design stage we can also offer advise.

A Landscape and Visual Assessment  is a a combination of field work, photography, graphic design, 3D modelling and written reporting which seeks to assess impacts from a proposed development. This can something small such as a communications tower (mobile phone mast), or something very large such as a airport or freight terminal.

Typically a Landscape and Visual Assessment is not required in inner urban areas, they are more commonly used to asses impacts on the landscape and visual amenity that is provided my open rural & outback areas.

National Guidance for Landscape and Visual Assessment

The key national guide for the Visual Impact Assessment is the "Guidance Note for Landscape and Visual Assessment" published by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. The document outline the approach required as well as useful information on scoping:

  1. Landscape and Visual Assessment (LVA) should be scoped to reflect the scale of the project
  2. It should reflect community values and preferences, particularly as described in any published study
  3. It should be based on an understanding of the setting and valued attributes
  4. It should have an appropriate level of rigour to inform decision making

Scale of the Project

We would suggest for a project of any size, where a Landscape and Visual Assessment has been requested, it is well worth following the guide start to finish. With the exception of VAMs the Landscape and Visual Assessment process is highly qualitative, that is to say the conclusions of any Landscape and Visual Assessment will be open to debate with those who are scrutinizing the report.

Why then submit a weak report which will then almost certainly require upgrades. It is a smart move to make a strong start, and provide a complete study. Drip feeding the governing authority will cost more and cost time you may not have. 

Community Values and Preferences

With any project that may cause disruption to the local community it is wise to include them from the outset to avoid objections, and friction which will slow you down. Consultations / Meetings with the public giving them choices over non critical variable such as colour or planting can make all the difference and make them feel involved.

 Valued Attributes

  1. Water and natural elements are preferred over urban scenes
  2. Mountains and hills are preferred over flat land
  3. Views are preferred which include both mid-ground elements (with some detail discernible) and a background
  4. Views with skyline features and views which include focal points are preferred


This is ensured by having an experienced consultant follow the appropriate guidance. 

Regional Guidance for Landscape and Visual Assessment

When considering the entire commonwealth it is perhaps Western Australia that has the best guidance on the practice of Landscape and Visual Assessment. It assumes that the protection of landscape values is now expected by communities, views and landscape form if disrupted can degrade the amity of a given area. A project or development may be good for the economy or it may be of low impact say for transport, but if the view is spoilt then this constitutes a major problem.

Visibility Analysis Maps

A map illustrating areas of land with views to a particular feature.  This may be modelled or field- validated, and assumptions must  be stated.

Case Study of Landscape and Visual Assessment

It was requested that a Landscape and Visual Assessment be prepared for a project in New South Wales (NSW) the project consisted of a single mobile phone mast. Mobile phone masts have the potential to a problematic in terms of visual impact, because they are often sited on high ground which was the case in this instance.

landscape_visual_assessment_process A full report contains a days field work in the area either driving, walking (or sometime cycling) to vantage points which are considered to have visual amenity value.

Choosing these locations can be aided with the use of a VAM. As this shows where the mast will be visible. SWEL can create VAMs that incorporate vegetation. This gives a much more useful appraisal of the zones of visibility.

A number of photographs are taken, these serve as a baseline survey, and can also be used at a later date for superimposing rendered images of the project, to create photomontages.

A 3D model of the area is also created, this is used to provide bare earth visualizations of the proposed structure from the vantage points visited. In this way the scale of project can be easily displayed. Trees are added to give an idea idea of scale and distance.

With the a thorough understanding of the site, we can now start to write the report assessing the visual and landscape impact from the locations visited. This is a qualitative process, there are no numbers involved. 

In this instance with some suggestions for changes in mast colour SWEL assessed the project as having low impact to both landscape and visual amenity.