People identify with landscapes and landscapes contribute to a sense of place and wellbeing. The landscape is therefore an important contributor to quality of life. New developments, such as urban and infrastructure projects and the expansion of large-scale agriculture, introduce many new elements into traditional landscapes, altering their visual appearance and perceived quality. These changes may have significant influences on people’s quality of life. In order to protect or enhance the visual landscape, changes in the visual landscape should be given explicit attention in landscape planning and policy making. Current improvements of measurement techniques enabled by GIS, and of highly detailed topographic data covering large areas make it feasible to describe the visual landscape with a high degree of realism without making many concessions to generality and objectivity.
The article proposes a procedure that describes the visual landscape, which takes advantage of improvements in measurement techniques, developments in GIS and availability of high-resolution topographic data. The procedure is developed for policy making and spatial planning purposes, and provides information about one specific aspect of the visual landscape, landscape openness. In the remainder of the article, first the concept of landscape openness is explained, then a method to model landscape openness is proposed. Subsequently, a procedure to use this model for policy making purposes is demonstrated. Finally the results of an evaluation of the procedure with policy makers are discussed.