Perception of scale and scale effects in the landscape, with specific reference to wind turbines in Scotland
Stanton, Caroline Mary
Perception of scale is important to our activity within a space and to our experience of a landscape. This presents a problem if people cannot predict or convey the scale effects of large structures proposed in a landscape, as has been the case for recent wind turbine proposals in Scotland. To address this problem, this research explored how people perceive scale and scale effects in a landscape. It took wind turbines as an example structure and analysed how different scales of windfarm create different scale effects in different landscapes, as well as how to best assess and communicate these effects. The research applied three methods to address the research questions: Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA), which is a standard, structured process applied by professional landscape architects; experiential landscape assessment, which included semi-structured interviews with local people in addition to site assessment; and public attitude and preference study, which included Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint analysis (ACBC). These different methods allowed the research questions to be explored in different ways, while overlapping in some aspects and providing triangulation. The research findings revealed that our perception of scale and scale effects in a landscape is influenced by numerous attributes and depends on how these are experienced together. Building upon the theoretical background, an important difference between visual scale and spatial scale was highlighted, as well as alternative ways in which scale references are made. Throughout the research, the need for clear communication was emphasised and the findings included identifying the specific words that people use to describe scale effects in the most discriminating way. This research supported other studies in finding that consultation with local people (professionals and the public) was vital to understand in sufficient depth how a landscape was perceived, experienced and valued. In addition, the innovative development of Conjoint Analysis demonstrated how this method can reveal how people judge the relative importance of different attributes that influence landscape and visual effects and, by doing so, offer new possibilities as a tool in landscape research. Building upon the general findings concerning scale, specific findings regarding the scale effects of windfarms included: greater influence of the proximity of a windfarm than size or numbers of wind turbines; greater importance for being in private and/or fixed locations that offer a sense of refuge compared to public locations and/or when moving; the importance of collective effects perceived and experienced by a community; the importance of perceived spatial separation between a viewer and a windfarm (affecting sensitivity to scale effects within open settings); and differences in how people judge the importance of horizontal scale effects compared to vertical scale effects. The research findings contribute to the knowledge and understanding of people’s perception of scale and scale effects in a landscape and they counter some common assumptions and current practice in landscape architecture. They can be applied in practice and policy to help assess scale effects, convey more clearly to people the type of scale effects and how these will affect them, and minimise the adverse scale effects of windfarms through siting and design. The thesis also identifies how to build upon these findings in the future, including recommendations for additional research, new approaches to assessment (including the use of prompt lists) and thresholds for acceptability of scale effects.
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