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Landscape Character Assessment

The LCA review comprises a report and character areas map for every Surrey District and Borough. You can find these as PDF files below.

Please check file sizes before downloading as some are very large. If you have difficulty downloading a file, please contact us.

What is the Surrey Landscape Character Assessment?

The Surrey Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive assessment of the landscape character of the county. It takes account of the framework of the National Character Areas recently reviewed by Natural England and describes variations in the landscape character at a county level.

The Surrey LCA review was undertaken by landscape consultants Hankinson Duckett Associates, in partnership with the environment team at Surrey County Council, Natural England and Surrey's districts and boroughs. It has been informed by and now replaces the 1997 character assessment, entitled ‘The future of Surrey's Landscape and Woodlands’.     

A landscape character assessment looks at the local landscapes and their unique qualities in a detailed way. It identifies the components of the landscape including the underlying geology, soils, topography, land cover hydrology, vegetation, historic and cultural development and physical features and describes how these elements and features combine together to make one place different from another. This leads to the classification and mapping of the landscape via landscape types and landscape character areas, which seek to describe the patterns and key features of each of the landscapes. It does not judge or rank the character of a place but describes the landscape of each area in a systematic way using those essential characteristics that make up each landscape. 


The Landscape of Surrey

Surrey is one of the most wooded counties in England, but despite this it has a great variety of land cover due to its varied geology, landform and soils. It contains the flat areas in the Thames Basin, the hills of the North Downs and Wealden Greensand, large expanses of open heathland, enclosed wooded gills, river valleys and water bodies, intimate small scale farmland and open meadows. Woodland covers 22% of the county, but heathland and chalk downland are also particularly characteristic. Farmland, including that of the Low Weald is another main component of the landscape. The two river valleys of the Wey and Mole cut through these landscapes, flowing from south to north. They flow into the Thames, threading through a number of large reservoirs and water bodies in the northwest of the county, before joining the main river. 

It is a highly valued landscape with over 25% of the county being designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the Surrey Hills and the High Weald AONBs). It contains extensive areas of high biodiversity value and internationally important habitats. The county also contains a number of high quality historic parklands. 

Landscape character types and areas

The LCA has identified 21 generic Landscape Character Types across the county which consist of landscapes that consist of broadly similar patterns of geology, landform, soils, vegetation, land use settlement and field patterns. These are accompanied by two landscape types which consist of groups of small individual areas on the edges of, or surrounded by built up areas and are of a variety of land uses which do not readily fit into the other landscape types. 

These landscape types areas are split into 140 locally related and named landscape character areas. Each landscape character area has a distinct and recognisable local identity. 

Landscape Guidelines

Each landscape type has a number of guidelines to help provide a broad framework for managing the pressures for change which may affect them. They offer guidance on maintaining the diversity and essential characteristics identified to conserve the landscape for the future. 

Mapping and descriptions

The study has been prepared on a Geographic Information System (GIS) with mapping undertaken at 1:25,000. This is available on the Surrey Interactive map. You can access the descriptions of landscape types and  landscape character areas under the separate chapters of the landscape assessment, by downloading the relevant pdf below. 


Purpose of assessment

Local authorities are encouraged to base planning policies and decisions on up to date information about the natural environment and other characteristics of the area. The purpose of the assessment is to provide up to date information about the environmental characteristics of Surrey as a whole, and the distinctiveness of its different landscapes. This information sits alongside Surrey’s Historic Landscape Character Assessment which is also available on the Surrey Interactive map (see link above) to contribute valuable information on the environment of Surrey and provide a landscape baseline. This can be used to support plan making, policy development and to help inform planning applications. 

It will form the context of landscape capacity and sensitivity studies, further character assessments, landscape management plans, land management and monitoring, landscape projects and initiatives, as well as decisions on managing the landscape. The Surrey LCA provides an evidence base which will be used in the county’s work on strategic planning, highways, minerals and waste planning and countryside management and projects. 

A number of district and borough local authorities have produced their own local assessments which may form part of their Local Plan. You are encouraged to make contact with the relevant local authority to discuss which character assessment should be the primary source of information.  

This document should be read in conjunction with the management plans that cover Surrey’s protected landscapes in the Surrey Hills AONB and the High Weald AONB, as well as other sources of environmental information such as Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs), the Historic Environment Record and the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, which describe and map the environmental assets of the county.   

Our LCA sits alongside other neighbouring county or regional assessments to provide a strategic overview for the southeast of England, such as the South Downs National Park , West Sussex County Council , Kent County Council and East Sussex County Council.

Reports and character area maps for Surrey Districts and Boroughs

Please see PDF downloads below.

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