Eyesores in sight: Quantifying the impact of man-made elements on the scenic beauty of Dutch landscapes

Vries, S. de; Groot, M. de; Boers, J.


The numerous man-made elements being introduced into the countryside raises the question of how negative impacts on scenic beauty can be minimized. This study investigates the visual impact of wind turbines, business parks and agricultural buildings (barns) on scenic beauty, taking into account their context, design, distance from the observer and mitigating measures. Participants (N = 2008) were members of a commercial research agency panel. In a web-based survey, they were shown 36 photographs of undisturbed landscapes interspersed with realistic photomontages of landscapes with one of the three elements. Participants rated the scenic beauty of the landscapes in random order. Wind turbines had a clear negative impact in all cases, with design factors and mitigating measures making little or no difference. The impact of turbines decreased somewhat with distance and was greater in landscapes that were evaluated as more beautiful in their original (undisturbed) state. The impact of business parks and barns was somewhat dependent on (some) design factors and mitigating vegetation, which occasionally resulted in no significant impact at all. Distance also clearly affected impact. Systematic individual differences were observed only for wind turbines: impact increased with age. Main conclusions are that for wind turbines location policy would seem most effective for minimizing impact, whereas for business parks and barns a lot can be achieved by design and especially mitigation. The impact of wind turbines might diminish over time anyway, due to increased familiarity. Finally, the relationship between impact on scenic beauty and social acceptance of man-made elements is briefly discussed. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------