Devon’s Landscape Underpins Our Economy

The South Hams landscape supports our health and wellbeing by encouraging physical outdoor activity and is an antidote to stress. Landscapes can offer aesthetic enjoyment, escapism, tranquillity, and a sense of belonging to an area with a distinct natural and cultural identity. Many landscapes in Devon inspire artists, writers and photographers whose work is enjoyed by all ages.

Landscape is more than just scenery: it is the interaction between people and place; the bedrock upon which our society is built. The European Landscape Convention defines landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors.’

Devon’s landscape underpins our economy, offering a superb natural and cultural environment that sustains agriculture, attracts inward investment, and supports one of the most vibrant tourism industries in the UK.

New development needs to take full account of its relationship with the landscape. Understanding the landscape context of development is an essential first step of the design process.  Devon’s landscape character assessment  (DLCA) helps developers to understand the characteristics of different areas of landscape and of the impacts of potential development. This helps in the identification of sites that are suitable for different types of development. When a development site has been identified, the key characteristics of the landscape can inform the design and layout of new development.

The DLCA provides the background information and a spatial framework for landscape sensitivity studies. The characteristics of the landscape as identified in the DLCA allow the assessment of inherent landscape sensitivity, which can then inform an assessment of the sensitivity of the landscape to particular types of change. Combining this with an assessment of the visibility of particular types of change leads to an understanding of overall landscape sensitivity. Sensitivity studies can be developed for a wide range of different change scenarios, including built development, energy infrastructure and forestry.

There are a number of ways that trees are protected by law within the UK. These include Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), Conservation Areas, the Felling Licence system, Restrictive Covenants, and planning conditions within the planning system.

Trees, hedges and woodland are an integral part of Devon’s countryside and towns, and they provide multiple benefits to society, including filtering air pollution, reducing surface water runoff /contributing to sustainable drainage, providing wildlife habitats, improving water quality and the stabilising of soils and slopes.

Devon’s hedges are protected by law because they are of great historical and environmental  importance:  three quarters of hedges in Devon are 600 years old or more;  they define the county’s beautiful farmed landscapes and support an immense amount of wildlife. A single hedge can support well over 2,000 species.  Hedges are vital for most farmland wildlife, either as their main habitat or as  essential wildlife corridors;  without them, many species would crash.

Sadly only  about 40% of Devon’s hedges are  in a healthy state. The major problems are that many are becoming thin because management is limited to a close annual cut, Devon Hedge Group provides information on Devon’s hedges and why they are so important for biodiversity and landscape.

Hedgerows only thrive when they are properly managed. The SHS has produced a leaflet which rates hedges according to  how well they have been maintained. Click here to view our leaflet. If you want more information on the history, wildlife value, landscape value or management of hedgerows, visit Devon County Council’s Hedgerow page.

SHS hedges

 Download and view leaflet in full here.

Under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, permission  must be sought from the council  before  removing a hedge:  failure to do so is a criminal offence.

Also of special value are Devon’s orchards, ancient woodland, veteran trees & ancient pasture as they form part of its historic landscapes, including many historic parkland estates and designed landscapes.  Download the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Guide which explains what ancient & veteran trees are and why they are important. Also visit the Ancient Tree Inventory, which allows users to search, submit and update records for ancient/veteran trees.


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