Townscape assessment

by | May 6, 2020 | Technical

This note gives a brief, non-technical overview of townscape character assessment and the role it plays in urban planning.

Townscape character assessment (TCA) plays a key role in integrating urban development into its wider townscape context. It’s often important to gain an understanding of existing townscape character in the early stages of an urban development project.

Landscape Visual Limited has undertaken TCAs and townscape and visual impact assessments (TVIAs) for a wide variety of urban projects, including large-scale regeneration schemes and taller buildings. This work is informed by a number of documents, including the Landscape Institute’s Technical Bulletin 05/2017 and the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA3).


Key components of townscape character

Townscape character evolves through the interaction of a range of physical, social and cultural components. How these components are understood and experienced by people is an integral part of townscape character.

TCA includes consideration of:

  • The historical development of the urban environment.
  • Any cultural associations and heritage assets.
  • The existing urban structure and urban grain
  • The massing and scale of existing built form.
  • Legibility, landmarks, vistas and skyline.
  • Green infrastructure, streetscapes and the public realm.
  • Utilities, movement and connectivity.
  • Perceptual qualities, such as levels of relative tranquillity.

The TCA process analyses the spatial arrangements, relationships and narratives that are created when the above components come together. This in turn allows a tangible sense of place to be distinguished and clearly articulated.

As part of our townscape and visual impact assessment work, we will often map the local townscape character. This gives a baseline against which changes brought about by a proposed development can be assessed. The example below was produced for an area undergoing profound transformation near Hayes and Harlington Station in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Townscape character assessment plan

Townscape character assessment plan: near Hayes and Harlington Station, London Borough of Hillingdon


The role of visualisations in assessing townscape and visual effects

Photomontages, verified views or accurate visual representations (AVRs), are a central part of TVIA work, particularly where tall buildings are proposed (read more here). AVRs can include wireframes or rendered photomontages. AVRs from key viewpoints can be a very useful tool when considering the scale, massing and height of new development in relation to:

  • The scale, mass, height and architectural design of adjoining buildings.
  • The general pattern of building heights in relation to landform, vegetation and the skyline.
  • Existing key views, vistas and landmarks.

Visualisations were an important part of our TVIA work for a taller building development in Shoreham Harbour. The photomontages we prepared illustrated how the proposal related successfully to its townscape context, including neighbouring residential streets.

Townscape character assessment

Townscape character assessment: Boundary Road, Portslade-by-Sea

Click through the images below for examples of some townscape assessment projects.

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