Protection and Enhancement of Landscape Characters

  • Oxfordshire's landscapes are particularly important in defining the character of the county and what makes it distinctive.
  • The protected landscapes of the Chilterns, Cotswolds and North Wessex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty cover over a quarter of the land area of the county. These distinctive and varied landscapes, defined by their underlying geology, land use practices and the many water courses that cross them are highly valued and protected for their natural beauty, distinctiveness and tranquillity.
  • Great weight has been given to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and their settings in Oxfordshire and this has shaped the pattern of development in the county over time.
  • The conservation and enhancement of wildlife and cultural heritage are important considerations in these areas, and the Oxfordshire Plan will continue to support this, as AONBs continue to have the highest level of protection in relation to their landscape and scenic beauty.
  • Oxfordshire has many attractive landscapes and townscapes of distinct character, which are valued by residents and visitors alike. The National Landscape Character map of England shows Oxfordshire to be covered by eight different National Character Areas, which are defined by a unique combination of landscape, biodiversity, geodiversity, history and cultural and economic activity.
  • At a county level, these areas are reflected in the Oxfordshire Wildlife and Landscape Study (OWLS) as regional character areas. In addition, OWLS define a number of landscape types which are recognisable by common characteristics defined by geology, topography, landcover and settlement pattern. 

Preferred Policy Option

  • Landscape protection and enhancement is an important factor in plan-making and as such, is a key objective of the Oxfordshire Plan. The significance of any impacts on landscape are dependent on the sensitivity of landscape and the nature of any changes proposed. An understanding of such sensitivities will be central in guiding the Oxfordshire Plan spatial strategy.
  • The preferred policy option is to establish a positive strategy for the protection and enhancement of landscape and townscape features in Oxfordshire, due to the significance and importance of these features on the identity, sense of place, health and wellbeing and prosperity of Oxfordshire's communities. These factors drive Oxfordshire’s visitor economy.
  • It is necessary for the Oxfordshire Plan to have regard to the landscape and townscape character of the county in terms of shaping policies, defining the spatial strategy and determining the spatial distribution of growth. Further detailed evidence on landscape sensitivity and impacts will be required as the Oxfordshire Plan evolves, but it is important to recognise the importance landscape and townscape character will have on determining the overarching spatial strategy for the Oxfordshire Plan.

Policy Option 05: Protection and Enhancement of Landscape Characters

The Oxfordshire Plan would establish a positive strategy for the conservation and enhancement of landscape and townscape features at a county-wide landscape scale, taking account of topography, vegetation, tranquillity, light pollution, dark skies, settlement pattern and landscape protection status.

Landscape character and visual impact assessments would be required to support major new developments and urban extensions as well as the preparation of the Oxfordshire Plan itself and subsequent plans and strategies guiding development in Oxfordshire.

Regard should be had to the Oxfordshire Wildlife and Landscape Study and relevant landscape character studies relating to parts of Oxfordshire.

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