Landscape designations are widely used as a basis for land-use policy and planning decisions, with these often based on technical expert assessments. However, there is limited consideration in the literature of the extent to which such expert-based designations reflect public views. This is relevant when considering the strong emphasis of the European Landscape Convention on ensuring that public perceptions are reflected in landscape decisions. In this study, we use the results of a survey to generate public perception-based landscape character and change maps for the island of Gozo (Malta). We consider three different respondent sub-groups and evaluate the degree of concordance between results obtained and landscapes recommended for designation by experts. Results indicate a poor fit between expert-based and public-based results, with >70% of expert-recommended areas not considered to be of particularly high landscape character by the public, and conversely, with >50% of areas considered to be of high character by the public not included within areas identified by experts as meriting protection. The spatial distribution of these areas was also poorly correlated. Furthermore, clear differences between public and technical judgements of landscape change were evident, particularly in the case of urban landscapes. The study has important implications, showing that expert-based landscape designations may not accurately or adequately reflect public views on valued landscapes and suggesting the need for additional public input to inform decision-making. Our results also indicate the importance of adopting comprehensive protection, planning and management approaches that consider not only outstanding but also more everyday landscapes.
- European Landscape Convention
- Landscape change
- Landscape character
- Landscape planning