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The visual environment can be seen as the fabric that gives meaning and substance to our experience of the world around us, with each different location displaying its own unique visual character and atmosphere.

South Africa and Africa are world renowned for their richness and diversity of landscapes and cultures. Like any resource, the natural beauty that characterises our vistas is finite. It is of the utmost importance that the element of local character should be strengthened and enhanced when and wherever possible. The VIA is a process by which areas of significant landscape character are identified and then mitigation methods are recommended to ensure that the proposed modification does not undermine the significance of the landscape character.

According to the U.K Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) mitigation measures are more effective if they are implemented from project inception when alternatives are being considered. The ideal strategy for each identifiable negative effect is one of avoidance. If this is not possible, alternative strategies of reduction, remediation and compensation may be explored. If the consideration of mitigatory measures is left to the later stages of scheme design, this can result in increased mitigation costs, because early opportunities for avoidance of negative visual effects are missed.3

In terms of the DEA&DP Visual Guidelines, the following mitigations can be utilised to control the degree of landscape modification.

  • Avoidance: “Consideration should be given to avoiding potential impacts altogether…”

  • Mitigation: “These may include adjustments to the siting and design of the project, the careful selection of finishes and colours, the use of earthworks (such as berms) and planting to provide visual screening, as well as dust control where required. Penalties for non-compliance should be considered.”

  • Compensation and offsets: “Where avoidance and mitigation cannot achieve the desired effect, various forms of compensation could be considered. These may include land swaps, appropriation or financial compensation.”

  • Rehabilitation and restoration: “Both on-site and off-site landscape rehabilitation of areas affected by the project should be considered…This may include re-instating landforms and natural vegetation, provision of landscaped open space, or other agreed upon facilities.”

  • Enhancement: “Where the proposed project is located in run-down areas, or degraded landscapes, the improvement of these areas could form part of the visual management actions for the project.”

As part of the process of determining the impact and informing I&APs of the proposed landscape modifications, 3D modelling and photo montages are used to represent the proposed modifications. VRM Africa has adopted the modelling ethics drawn up by the Collaboration of Landscape Planners who state that “Professional preparers and presenters of realistic landscape visualisation are responsible for”:

  • Promoting full understanding of proposed landscape changes

  • Providing an honest and neutral visual representation of the expected landscape by seeking to avoid bias in responses and demonstrating the legitimacy of the visualisation process.”

  • Represent typical or important views

  • Provide viewers with a wide range of viewing conditions (including worst-case conditions)

  • The visualisation should be defensible by following a consistent and documented procedure

In order for the above guidelines to be implemented, VRM makes use of the latest technological advances in 3D GIS to ensure realistic, real time representations of proposed landscape changes. It is important to note that although all technological advantages have been utilised in order to create a realistic representation of proposed or potential receptor views, they are an approximation and therefore must be referenced as FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY.

3 Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. 2002. U.K Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA). Spon Press, Page 44