Natural England’s National Character Area project, defining all of England’s 159 major landscape areas, has been completed. The result is a unique, free and highly accessible information resource, highlighting how England’s varied landscapes function and how they can be cared for.
National Character Areas (NCAs) integrate a wide range of environmental information to create a ‘profile’ for each of England’s 159 major landscape areas, exploring the characteristic landscape, wildlife, cultural and geological features to be found, and providing information on how the landscape is changing, how it supports economic activity, and what are the local environmental opportunities for the future.
Each profile follows natural lines in the landscape rather than administrative boundaries, making them an invaluable aid for planning environmental projects and decision making for the environment. Awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Landscape Institute Awards 2013, the profiles are set out in an accessible tabbed format, creating an easy to use, one stop shop, and designed to help equip local communities with the tools needed to understand and shape their natural surroundings.
Jim Smyllie, Natural England Executive Director said: “NCA profiles talk about places which people can relate to very personally. They explore what makes those places distinctive, and explain how they function. I’m delighted that the complete set of these profiles is now available to help decision making at a really local level”.
Developed through close engagement with partners and stakeholders, NCAs are already being used for a wide range of purposes which include:
- A local evidence base supporting applications to Heritage Lottery funded landscape projects – £20 million this year alone.
- Environmental information and opportunities for Local Nature Partnerships and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
- Providing land use planning authorities with the natural environment context necessary for local development strategies.
- A geographical framework for the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS).
- Information support for development and land management plans and strategic environmental assessments.
- Information to support local environmental protection initiatives and action plans.
- Support for national policy development and implementation.
- Providing local context and a sense of place to support local tourism marketing.
- A resource for schools and students.
Richard Rampton, a consultant with Rural Advice Ltd. said: “The NCA profiles are being very useful, not to say essential, in providing background for what will become Local Development Strategies and bids to Defra for funding the two LEADER areas proposed for Suffolk and North Essex: the Heritage Coast and the Wool Towns. […] the Character Area profiles have provided us with really thorough descriptions and pointers to opportunities for the Local Area Groups to pursue.”
Until now the landscape sector, has relied on Joint Character Area descriptions to underpin knowledge about management and shaping of the landscape character of England. These former character areas have now been fully revised and updated to create the National Character Area Profiles. With all 159 NCA profiles now complete, the series forms a definitive and free landscape information resource, meeting a commitment made in the government’s Natural Environment White Paper (2011).
The National Character Area Profiles can be accessed via the Natural England webpage.