The Meaning of Landscape for Communities
: Integrating Perceptions of Change with Spatial Planning

  • Rodney Lovie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by UHI)


There have been calls for planning decisions in Scotland to include community members’ landscape perceptions in an attempt to increase involvement in the planning system and contribute to the development of more sustainable communities. This research aims to establish how community members’ landscape perceptions can be elicited, integrated and interpreted, how they are influenced by change related to infrastructure development, and how this information may be used as part of the planning process. A sequential mixed method approach used participatory techniques including photo-voice and community workshops to explore the views of both planning professionals and community members.
Academic research has moved towards exploring landscape as an embodied way of knowing and engaging with the local environment. This ‘dwelling’ perspective questions the more traditional concept of landscape as being a spatial product of human culture, and instead recognises that landscape is created through the relationality between space and meaning.
Adopting a relational approach to landscape, the dualling of the A9 from Perth to Inverness was an opportunity to engage with residents about their landscape perceptions and how these change. Improved road access to urban areas was recognised to alter the sense of place and lead to the earlier state being desirable. However, these meanings attached to landscapes are not fixed and can be altered by proposals for landscape development.
While roads and transport infrastructure were mainly associated with historic or heritage meanings, potential changes to transport infrastructure were not regarded as a threat to these meanings. Instead, the possible impacts on the natural environment and community cohesion were considered to be more significant. This demonstrates that communities need to express their perceptions in relation to specific developments.
Therefore, community members’ landscape perceptions should not be regarded as buried deposits of knowledge waiting to be unearthed to help inform future planning decisions. Instead, landscape perceptions should be regarded as a snapshot of the changing relationship between the community and their local environment. Understanding how these perceptions change can assist both community and planning professionals to collectively plan future infrastructure development.
Date of Award2 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SponsorsJames Hutton Institute (Aberdeen) & Transport Scotland
SupervisorRosalind Bryce (Supervisor) & Martin Francis Price (Supervisor)

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