Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Search List

Developing a single National Historic Landscape Characterisation for England (NHLC) as a baseline dataset that will inform and monitor environmental land management interventions - LM0461

The HLC method developed rapidly through the 1990s, benefitting from data management and GIS mapping developments but this, and the varying emphasis, levels of interpretation and generalisation by differing compilers had an impact on the consistency of approaches. However, a stock-take and review of the HLC method in 2002 and the publication of a template HLC Project Design in 2003 brought methods into closer convergence while enabling local variation to reflect real local differences in character, needs and uses. In 2002, Using HLC - a summary of the key principles and uses of HLC - was published, and in 2010 two ‘regional HLCs’ were developed, in an initial form, to assist with spatial planning in the North West and the East of England.

Despite such activities, whilst HLC has enjoyed a variety of applications at a more local scale, its lack of overall cohesion has meant that in its current form ‘HLC’ cannot be used at a national level. This has had a particular impact on agri-environment scheme design and delivery when developing opportunities for historic environment protection and the conservation of landscape character and quality. Specifically, work with partners on Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship monitoring and targeting strongly highlighted the potential of a single national baseline HLC dataset as a means of supporting and enabling the better recognition, prioritisation and monitoring of historic landscape character in the delivery of agri-environment schemes.

The creation of a single, easily useable baseline dataset would not only assist with the targeting and monitoring of interventions on historic landscape character, but allow the evaluation of scheme delivery on HLC at and feed into future opportunities for policy and scheme design. In addition, NHLC would have wider potential application in ecosystem services and other land management initiatives, including habitat recreation or retention implications, developed by Defra and its partners, as well as contributing to strategic applications and initiatives elsewhere. These potential uses all accord with the integrated approach to landscape embedded in the European Landscape Convention (ELC).

In 2015 the characterisation of the historic dimension of England’s land area is virtually complete. As a result, Historic England has recently published a Historic Characterisation Thesaurus to provide a nationally comprehensive guide to HLC terms and their hierarchical relationships. These are both fundamental to the development of a single, coherent national baseline.

o Build on England’s existing HLC databases and retain a clear methodological and functional relationship with those
o bring the data contained within England’s existing HLCs into a consistent common framework, structure and terminology, utilising the Historic Characterisation Thesaurus and experience from HLC assimilation exercises already undertaken
o provide simple access and ability to manipulate and analyse the date within the NHLC as identified and agreed in the end user requirements exercise
o take into account a range of known and potential end uses and build in the capacity to ‘future proof’ and update the dataset to avoid a ‘point in time’ dataset
o accord with the Articles of the European Landscape Convention and overarching aims and principles of HLC (as set out in Annex 1)
o accord with available standards for data content, data management, interoperability and accessibility required by the database’s main identified end-users (see Annex 3)
o improve the awareness, understanding and appreciation of the historic dimension of England’s landscape at a national scale for both professional and non-professional end-users
o develop a product through close constructive liaison between the project team and an advisory Project Board drawn from Natural England, Historic England, Defra and ALGAO, with wider consultative representation from a Stakeholder Group
o fully document the development of the NHLC in a Project Report, which will also document the concordance and structural relationships between the existing sub-regional HLC databases and the NHLC database
o produce a concise non-technical user guide to the NHLC, in accessible language, which explains what the database comprises, its purpose, key capabilities and a summary of the known and potential contexts for the application of its baseline information

Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : LM0461 National Historic Landscape Characterisation of England FINAL REPORT   (1377k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2015

To: 2017

Cost: £55,980
Contractor / Funded Organisations
exeGesIS SDM Ltd