An evaluation of online GIS-based landscape and visual impact assessment tools and their potential for enhancing public participation in wind farm planning in the UK

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Effective information communication and public participation in the planning process are important elements for facilitating successful environmental decision-making. Previous research has demonstrated the importance of such factors for delivering benefits to a wide range of stakeholders in the planning system by increasing the transparency and efficiency of the planning process. Given the current problems facing onshore wind farm planning in the UK there is an urgent need to investigate alternative approaches for enhancing the quality of information dissemination and public participation in the planning process. Planning information relating to the potential visual impacts of wind farms is particularly important in the case of the wind farm planning, given the high levels of concern amongst members of the public regarding the perceived negative visual impact of proposed wind turbines on the landscape. However, shortcomings associated with traditional techniques used to assess such
impacts have been highlighted in previous research, along with drawbacks related to the dissemination of such information to the public during the planning stages of wind farm development. This has been shown to affect the overall quality of public participation in the planning process.

This research is concerned with evaluating the potential of innovative digital landscape visualisation and Internet-based techniques for addressing some of the shortcomings in these areas. This thesis describes the implementation of two survey studies designed to meet these objectives. The first study uses a postal questionnaire approach in order to determine the current 'state-of-play' regarding the levels of use of such innovative techniques for improving impact assessment and information dissemination in wind farm planning. In addition to a review of the existing literature, the findings of the survey provide further rationale for conducting the second (Internet-based) survey study, designed to evaluate the potential of online visualisation-based approaches for improving the quality and dissemination of visual information, and enhancing public participation in wind farm planning. The survey is based on visualisations created for an actual proposed wind farm development in South Wales, UK.
The findings reinforced much of the existing research literature, confirming that innovative visualisation and Internet-based approaches do have good potential for augmenting existing methods of visual information creation, dissemination and public participation although a variety of observations and concerns were raised by survey respondents that highlighted the potential limitations of such approaches. Further avenues for research are then identified.
Date of AwardApr 2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGary Higgs (Supervisor)


  • Geographic information systems

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