National Character Areas: So much to offer

England’s 159 National Character Areas (NCA) are areas of distinct environmental character mapped at a broad scale of 1:250,000. Profiles have been produced for each of them, providing a wealth of evidence about what makes each area special, and the opportunities to enhance them, in a way that can bring people with different perspectives together to discuss action at a local scale.

The NCAs were first identified and described by the Countryside Agency during the 1990s. The ‘Character Areas’ map drawn at that time demonstrated the diversity of England’s landscapes, reinforcing the European Landscape Convention principle that all landscapes matter. Subsequent collaboration with English Nature explored the dramatic and subtle ways in which underlying geology and soils influence both landscape character and wildlife habitat. The melding of Character Areas with English Nature’s ‘Natural Areas’ led to the existing NCA framework.

Since the creation of Natural England in 2006 the NCA framework profiles were updated in 2014, including input from Historic England and other partners. The NCA framework has since grown into a key strategic influence in the protection, management and planning of our landscapes. The profiles are currently being refreshed onto a digital web platform underpinned by a database that will also provide a basis for monitoring trends in landscape and environmental change across England. Baseline reporting will be available by March 2023.

The NCA profiles are easily navigated online. Have a look at your local NCA profile. It’s a great place to start – and has so much to offer!

Chris Bolton, Principal Specialist for Landscape, Natural England