This paper assesses the efficacy end relevance of the Special Landscape Area (SLA) designation - a non-statutory planning designation within the British planning system. SLAs cover significant areas of countryside, yet they remain neglected in planning research. The research reported here uses primary and secondary data to allow a critical assessment of SLAs across Wales. The results reveal confusion and contradiction within contemporary guidance and development plan policy, highlighting an emerging discourse between planners who seek to protect landscape using SLAs and those who advocate a more holistic approach. It is concluded that the emphasis on designation as a prime tool for landscape planning is outdated and in need of urgent reform towards a more multifunctional assessment of landscape character.