"Landscape" is defined as an area whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors. The landscape of County Kilkenny is a dynamic and valuable resource which incorporates all aspects of the natural, built and cultural heritage. Landscapes provide a sense of place and characterise the county for local residents and visitors alike both in terms of a place to live and also for recreational and tourism purposes.
Developments by their nature are likely to have some varying degree of visual impact on a landscape’s character profile depending on the type, use and scale of development proposed. It is important that Kilkenny’s landscape as a resource is sensibly managed and protected. Consequently, the onus shall be on the developer to satisfactorily demonstrate that such new development can be adequately absorbed into its surrounding landscape without significant adverse visual impacts to its overall landscape value.
The County’s landscapes offer a significant economic asset, with the agricultural and tourism potential of the rivers and upland landscapes being of particular significance. The protection and promotion of the landscape as an economic product is therefore critical.
The European Landscape Convention promotes the protection, management and planning of European landscapes. The Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in October 2000 and came into force in March 2004. The Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht has signalled its intention to publish a National Landscape Strategy, and in September 2011 it published a public consultation paper on the issues to be considered in the preparation of the strategy. The Council will support and implement the provisions of the National Landscape Strategy following its publication.
126.96.36.199 Landscape Character Assessment
Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is a process which describes, maps and classifies landscapes objectively. Defining landscape character enables an understanding to be formed of the inherent value and importance of individual landscape elements and the processes that may alter landscape character in the future.
Having regard to the European Landscape Convention a Landscape Character Assessment report was prepared for County Kilkenny in 2003 (in accordance with the Landscape and Landscape Assessment Guidelines for Planning Authorities, 2000). The Landscape Character Assessment identified four landscape character types, which are subdivided into 14 landscape character areas, with some areas identified as being of special landscape character value and also identified features and areas of high landscape sensitivity.
The Council will protect and sustainably manage the landscape character of County Kilkenny, having regard to the findings of the landscape character assessment and the Development Management Requirements as set out in this chapter for the sustainable development of the county and appropriate conservation of its landscape character.
188.8.131.52 Landscape Character Types
Landscape Character Types are distinct types of landscape that are relatively homogenous in character and are generic in nature in that they may occur in different localities throughout the county, but share similar combinations of geology, topography, land cover and historical land use, for example, Upland Areas.
The Landscape Character Assessment divides the county into four landscape character types (LCTs). These are:
- Upland Areas,
- Lowland Areas,
- River Valleys, and
- Transitional Areas.
184.108.40.206 Landscape Character Areas
LCTs are sub-divided into 14 geographically specific Landscape Character Areas. Landscape character areas and types are identified in Figure 9.2 (for further details please refer to the Landscape Character Assessment, which formed Appendix C to the 2008 Development Plan, and is reproduced in full on the Council’s website and available for inspection at the Planning Section of the Council). Landscape Character Areas are units of the landscape that are geographically specific and have their own character and sense of place. Each has its own distinctive character, based upon patterns of geology, landform, landuse, cultural, historical and ecological features.
220.127.116.11 Landscape Character Values
In addition to the physical and visual characteristics of the landscape, communities or individuals attach certain values to the landscape. Landscape values can be described as the environmental or cultural benefits (including services and functions) derived from various landscape attributes.
Landscape Areas of Highly Scenic and Significant Visual Amenity Value
The Landscape Character Assessment highlights the special landscape value of several of the Landscape Character Areas illustrated in Figure 9.2 – in particular Brandon Hill Uplands and the River Valley Areas of the Rivers Nore, Barrow and Suir have been identified as being highly scenic and visually pleasing, and as having significant visual amenity value and tourism potential within the county.
Development Management Requirement:
- To ensure that development within the Landscape Character Areas of Brandon Hill Uplands and the River Valleys of the Nore, Barrow and Suir, which are highly scenic and visually pleasing, and of significant visual amenity value, are carefully sited and designed and can be successfully assimilated into the landscape.
18.104.22.168 Landscape Character Sensitivity
The sensitivity of the Landscape Character Areas is defined as its overall resilience to sustain its character in the face of change and its ability to recover from loss or damage to its components.
Areas of Greater Sensitivity
The Landscape Character Assessment identified areas throughout the county that are highly sensitive to development and have a limited capacity for change. These areas are identified on Figure 9.3. These areas take account of areas of higher altitude in the county and of land cover. In general areas of elevated topography, with low growing or sparse vegetation and little existing development are landscapes of high sensitivity and have a low potential to absorb new development.
Sensitive land-use categories include areas which are open and exposed with sparse or low growing vegetation cover which is insufficient to provide screening. Even if planting is introduced, the exposed nature of these areas will not support any significant tall vegetation. Due to this, any development would be visible over a wide area. The exceptions to this are broadleaved, mixed forest and transitional woodland scrub areas which do support tall vegetation with potential to screen development. However, these categories area sensitive due to their natural character and their longevity in the landscape; any loss to their structure (for example, through felling) would have a visual impact over a wide area.
22.214.171.124 Views and Prospects
There is a need to protect and conserve views and prospects adjoining public roads and river valleys throughout the county where these views are of high amenity value. In conserving views, it is not proposed that this should give rise to the prohibition of development along these routes but development, where permitted, should not seriously hinder or obstruct these views and should be designed and located to minimise their impact. The views and prospects to be protected are contained in Appendix H to the Plan and are shown on Figure 9.2. The Planning Authority will be cognisant of the impact of developments within the county on views from neighbouring counties.
The Council will preserve and support the improvement of places or areas from which views or prospects of special amenity value exist, as identified in Appendix H and on Figure 9.2.
Development Management Requirements:
- To protect the landscape character, quality and local distinctiveness of County Kilkenny, and have regard to the guidance set out in the Landscape Character Assessment.
- Where necessary, to require that applications are accompanied by a visual impact assessment, particularly in upland areas, river valleys and areas of greater sensitivity.
- To facilitate appropriate development that reflects the scale, character and sensitivities of the local landscape throughout the county, and require that developments minimise the loss of natural features such as trees, hedgerows and stone walls.
- To facilitate, where appropriate, developments that have a functional and locational natural resource requirement to be situated on steep or elevated sites (e.g. reservoir, telecommunications or wind energy structures) with reference to the appropriate County strategies currently in place, and to ensure that any residual adverse visual impacts are minimised or mitigated.
- To ensure that development in upland areas or on steep slopes will not have a disproportionate or dominating visual impact (due to excessive bulk, scale or inappropriate siting) and will not significantly interfere or detract from scenic upland vistas, or when viewed from public areas, scenic routes, viewpoints or settlements.
- To have particular regard to the potential impacts of new development on sensitive upland areas, and to materially consider the difficulty of establishing and maintaining screening vegetation when assessing development proposals in these areas.
- To continue to permit development that can utilise existing structures and settlement areas whilst taking account of the local visual absorption opportunities provided by existing topography and prevailing vegetation and to direct new development whenever possible towards the vicinity of existing structures and mature vegetation in the Lowland Areas, River Valleys and Transitional Areas.
- To recognise that in the Lowland Areas which are comprised of low lying open environments, tall and bulky development sometimes can have a disproportionate impact against the landscape particularly when viewed from the predominantly low lying areas of the public realm. Visually obtrusive and/or insensitive development shall be discouraged in such instances.
- To ensure that development in the River Valleys will not adversely affect or detract from either protected views (see Appendix H) (especially from bridges) or distinctive linear sections of river valleys (especially open floodplains) when viewed from settlements.
- To maintain the visual integrity of areas of greater sensitivity in the county and ensure that any development in these areas is appropriately sited and designed. Applicants shall demonstrate that the proposed development can be assimilated into the landscape and will not have a disproportionate visual impact on the landscape.
 Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, A National Landscape Strategy for Ireland Strategy Issues Paper for Consultation, 2011.
 Department of the Environment and Local Government. Landscape and Landscape Assessment Consultation Draft of Guidelines for Planning Authorities, 2000.