An Taisce appreciates landscape is a complex phenomenon and agreeing on landscape values has become a contentious topic for the government, local authorities, stakeholders and public alike. There should now have been sufficient time for the government and others to reflect on the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era, including the changes it brought to the landscape and focus on how the country will face-up to protecting, managing and planning its landscape in the future. Although positives have emerged from the past decade they have been masked by the negatives, particularly the degradation of character in the countryside by aberrant development.

To remove contentiousness from landscape and promote agreement on landscape character and value the Council of Europe (2000) shaped the European Landscape Convention. The European Landscape Convention was signed into force by thirty member states of the Council of Europe in Florence, Italy on 20 October 2000. As a result, every aspect of the European landscape was identified as having great importance in the cultural, ecological, environmental and social fields as well as holding resources which can contribute favourably to economic activity. Its ‘protection, management and planning’ can aid in the creation of: better job opportunities; an identity; unity and cooperation between member states; human well-being; quality of life; and responsibility. The concept of landscape now represents natural, rural, urban, peri-urban, outstanding, everyday and blighted landscapes.

The draft strategy for Ireland represents an opportunity for the Department, who oversee the management of the landscape, to reform and consider what is important to their landscapes, environments and communities and be ready for the next transformation. It is, therefore, disappointing that all that all the draft has amounted to is rhetoric of commendable objectives which lacks robust, detailed and scheduled targets, actions and measures to achieve tangible implementation and a transition in how Ireland meaningfully promotes the protection, management and planning of the landscape in line with the convention. Implementation has been the Achilles heel of the achievement of sustainable landscape planning in Ireland and must now at this critical juncture be the focus of a Landscape Strategy.

An Taisce has requested that the Department revise the entire strategy to include more detailed and focused actions, particularly in relation to gaps in the legislation and policy for landscape, and attach detailed and scheduled targets and give assurances of financial resources to secure compliance with the European Landscape Convention.

Download the submission here.