Highland Council’s windfarm visualisation standards are scrutinised by Inverness architect Alan Macdonald, of Architech, who has published a book Windfarm Visualisation which calls for fixed standards
The visualisations in windfarm applications have been a controversial issue for many years.
Most of the visualisations currently submitted in windfarm applications prepared by landscape practices support the guidance produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) based on the science of perspective. However, this “science” is seriously flawed.
The main problem is that a single format is being used for two entirely different forms of assessment, which is open to misinterpretation.
If we look at the two photomontages, the upper image is the correct singleframe 50mm photograph.
However, in the lower image, the 50mm photograph only forms the centre of the image, which has been extended horizontally by stitching photographs together to show the wider context. This is typical of the field of view in windfarm visualisations.
To view the panorama correctly, it has to be viewed with one eye at a much closer distance. The importance of this exact viewing distance and the use of one eye is never clearly explained, so the observer naturally views the image from a greater distance with both eyes, changing our perception of distance.
In 2010, Highland Council took the lead nationally by producing its own visualisation standards, requiring the submission of single-frame images as well as panoramic images for professional landscape assessment.
The council’s standards have proved much more informative for the public and councillors, and this is supported by a recent Stirling University study.
As a result, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing asked SNH to undertake a review of their guidance to include images which are more suitable for public consultation. I believe change is urgently required so councils and the public can benefit from more realistic and accessible visualisations.
• Mr Macdonald’s book, published by Whittles Publishing of Dunbeath, has been strongly endorsed by Richard Burden, the past president of the British Landscape Institute.
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