Bloedkoppie - Namibia


Newtown Landscape Architects cc is a leader in South Africa in VISUAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (VIA). The firm won an Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA) Merit Award for the visual impact assessment of the Afrisun Casino and Entertainment Developments, KwaZulu / Natal (Sibaya and Aquarius) in 1998, thus setting a standard and method for visual impact assessments. NLA (through Graham Young) has also co-authored and produced several technical papers on visual impact assessment:

Oberholzer, B. Guideline for involving visual & aesthetic specialists in EIA processes: Edition 1. CSIR Report No ENV-S-C 2005 053 F. Republic of South Africa, Provincial Government of the Western Cape, Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning, Cape Town.

Young, G, Maxibuko, B., and Muller, L. 2009.  Visual Impacts of Power Lines in Eskom,  Eskom Research and Innovation Department Technology, Strategy and Planning,  Research Report, Report Number RES/RR/08/30193.

Young, G. 2011. Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund Technical Committee: Visual Impact Assessment Training Module Guideline Document. Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund.

NLA have completed over 250 VIA’s since 1989 in South Africa, other parts of Africa and Canada. 

What is Visual Impact?

Visual impacts occur when changes in the landscape are noticeable to viewers looking at the landscape from their homes or from parks and conservation areas, highways and travel routes, and important cultural features and historic sites.

Visual impacts therefore relate to the changes that arise in the composition of views as a result of:

Changes to the landscape;
People’s responses to those changes;
And the overall negative effects with respect to the scenic beauty of
that landscape.

Visual impact is thus measured as the change or contrast to the existing visual environment and the extent to which that change compromises (negative impact) or enhances (positive impact) or maintains the visual quality of the landscape.

This understanding also reflects the layman’s concerns, which normally are:

  •   Will I be able to see the development?
  •   What will it look like?
  •   Will the development affect views in my area and if so how?

Why is Visual Impact an issue...?

… because visual impacts reduce the public’s enjoyment and appreciation of the landscape and impair the character or quality of such a place…and the aesthetic quality of the landscape is a national resource.

A visual impact study addresses the importance of the inherent aesthetics of the landscape, the public value of viewing that landscape, and the contrast or change in the landscape derived from the physical presence of a proposed project.

For some topics, such as water or air quality, it is possible to use measurable, technical international or national guidelines or legislative standards, against which potential effects can be assessed.  The assessment of likely effects on a landscape resource and on visual amenity is however more complex since it is determined through a combination of quantitative and qualitative evaluations.  Aesthetics is a complex field and an even more complex experience.

NLA have however developed a workable method for assessing visual impacts (recognized in 2000 with an ILASA Merit Award for ‘making a significant contribution to the practice of landscape architecture’) that includes a combination of objective and subjective judgements.  The approach mediates between arguments that involve a degree of subjective opinion (as in the assessment of landscape value) from those that are normally more objective and quantifiable (as in the determination of magnitude of change).  Ultimately, judgement is based on the training and experience of a qualified and experienced professional Landscape Architects, supported by clear evidence (computer models of the proposed intervention) and reasoned argument.  This approach provides the Authorities with a clear ‘picture’ of what the potential visual impact could be and what mitigation measures could successfully be applied to reduce the impact if effectively implemented.




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