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ILCA Report Summary

Project ID: 626571
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - ILCA (Archaeology and an integrated approach to landscape governanceDevelopment of an Integrated Landscape Character Appraisal Method (ILCA))

The ILCA (Integrated Landscape Character Appraisal) project was initially based on the idea that the integrated characterisation of a landscape, and particularly its dynamic historical evolution, is necessary fully to realise the potential of sustainable development in specific localities.

Landscape is a holistic concept, providing a range of disciplines and interests with common ground for discourse and action (Naveh, 2001; Tress et al., 2003, Butler & Berlung, 2014, Olwig et al. 2016). Yet landscape, and all the ideas underpinning it, is a place- and culturally-specific concept. The specifications of the most prevalent Landscape Characterisation methods, such as LCA and the HLC, were developed in the particular socio-economic context of the post-war UK and the institutionalisation of its planning and conservation practices (Sarlöv-Herlin, 2016). Thus, versions of these methods existed long before the European Landscape Convention (Sarlöv-Herlin & Fairclough, 2013) and, although they have influenced the development of similar approaches elsewhere in Europe and beyond (see Landscape Observatory of Catalonia, the proposals of the Latin America Landscape Initiative etc.), these methods reflect the interests and values of a specific milieu and the thinking of conservation practice as it was in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The European Landscape Convention marked a turning point, with its definition of landscape as "an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’’ (CoE, 2000a). This shift on the focus on landscape as a largely physical entity to landscape as something dependent on human perception and human interaction with the environment generated a great deal of research, arguing for and promoting a new societal and culturally-grounded understanding of landscape. Most importantly, this new paradigm provides a space for democratising landscape and recognise it as a common resource and a common good (Butler & Berlung, 2014, Dalglish & Leslie, 2016, Egoz et al, 2016).

In this context, the ILCA project began by developing a theoretical and a practical framework for an integrated approach for the assessment of landscape character: an alternative pathway to comprehend landscape character, manage landscape change and support a type of landscape governance that could ensure the sustainable development of a given place.

The research identified five main principles which provide a framework for developing forms of landscape characterisation capable of contributing more fully to sustainable development:
1. If landscape is about human interaciton with the environment, then landscape characterisation must be people-centred in approach;
2. If democratising spaces is a key to landscape governance, then landscape characterisation must be achieved through a ground-up process that entails a meaningful engagement of communities and landscape actors of particular territories;
3. If community engagement is central to the process, then landscape characterisation must relate to communtiy aspirations and needs and consequently ensures community well-being;
4. If sustainable development requires securing the well-being of all, then landscape characterisation must be founded on the principles of helping to secure a healthy environment, equity and justice for people today and for generations to come; and,
5. If landscape governance is to be undertaken in a manner leading to sustainable development, then multiple context-specific approaches to landscape characterisaiton will be needed, rather than a single universal method.

The main finding of the research is that we cannot look just for a single approach suitable for all places and communities. In this constantly changing world, threatened by global warming and characterised by poverty and conflict, we need to seek new paths for development which achieves the well-being of all. During the development of this project, inspiration was provided by the commitment of 200+ nations to UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with crucially important goals such as “no poverty” (Goal 1), “zero hunger” (Goal 2), “sustainable cities and communities” (Goal 11), “Climate action” (Goal 13) and “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems” (Goal 15).

This change in international politics influenced greatly the research activity of the project. The implementation of these global goals is a challenging commitment that requires innovative and concrete actions not just at international but also at national and local levels. The project shifted its focus to align landscape characterisation with the principle of Sustainable Human Development, seeking people-centred and place-oriented ways to allow the foster communities’ capabilities for their own sustainable development.

In this, nothing was more important than interaction with the communities of the project's case study region: the Northern Pindos mountains, a marginalised mountainous area straddling the border between Greece and Albania and characterised by rich biodiversity (one of the major ecological hotspots of the Mediterranean and the Balkans) and cultural diversity. The mixture of cultural and ethnotic groups (local population, transhumant Vlachs, Sarakatsanoi descendants, immigrants from Pontus and Asia Minor and more recently refugees from Syria and Afganistan) add to the area's attractiveness, on the one hand, and, on the other, create all kinds of challenges for the development prospects of the region.

The project built on previous experience of the development of the Vjosa/Aoos Ecomuseum, as a successful community-driven model with the potential to address the challenges faced by isolated cross-border rural communities in relation to a range of socio-economic, environmental and cultural developmental issues. The evaluation of the current project through active and on-going engagement with the local communities revealed regional imbalances which are a consequence of the sociopolitical particularities of the context: the area has gradually become deprived, degraded and abandoned and, with an ageing population and limited potential to improve their way of life, young people seek a better future elsewhere.

How to achieve the SDGs in this region and a balanced future for the landscapes of Northern Pindos (for both their nature and culture, their environment and people) is an issue for the years ahead. The project has helped to lay foundations for this future effort, though, and there is a great prospect for the ideas produced by the research to flourish in the near future. Both the work preceding and the work conducted during ILCA have had positive impacts on the local communities in and around the case study area with similar grassroots initiatives (i.e. the ecomuseum of Zagori) emerging partly as a result.

The results of the work have been made available to the wider public through a brochure (Available at: and to policy makers, academics and NGOs through a policy brief (Available at:

Butler, A. & Berlung, U. 2014. Landscape Character Assessment as an Approach to Understanding Public Interests within the European Landscape Convention. Landscape Research 39:3, 219-236.
Council of Europe. 2000. European Landscape Convention. Florence (CETS No. 176). Strasbourg.

Dalglish, C. & Leslie, A. 2016. A question of what matters: landscape characterisation as a process of situated, problem-orientated public discourse. Landscape Research 41: 2. 212-226.

Egoz, F. Makhzoumi, J. & Pungetti, G. 2011. The right to landscape: An introduction. In: F. Egoz, J. Makhzoumi & G. Pungetti (eds). The Right to Landscape: Contesting Landscapes and Human Rights. Surrey & Burlington: Ashgate. 1-20.

Fairclough, G. & Sarlov-Herlin, I. 2005. The meaning of ‘countryside’: what are we trying to sustain? In: D. McCollin, & J. I. Jackson (eds.), Planning, people and practice: The landscape ecology of sustainable landscapes. Proceedings of the 13th Annual IALE (UK) conference held at The University of Northampton. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. 11-19.

Herling, I.S 2016. Exploring the national contexts and cultural ideas that preceded the Landscape Character Assessment method in England. Landscape Research 41: 2. 175-185.
Naveh, Z. 2001. Ten major premises for a holistic conception of multifunctional landscapes, Landscape and Urban Planning, 57(3–4),269–284.

Olwig, K.R., Dalglish, C., Fairclough, G. & Herring, P. 2016. Introduction to a special issue: the future of landscape characterisation, and the future character of landscape – between space, time, history, place and nature. Landscape Research 41: 2. 169-174.

Tress, B., Tress, G., & van der Valk, A. 2003. Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in landscape studies: The Wageningen DELTA approach. In: B. T. Tress & G. A. van der Valk (eds) Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Landscape Studies: Potential and Limitations. Wageningen: Alterra Green World Research.

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