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Reasons to be cheerful – eight things we liked about 2015

Reasons to be cheerful – eight things we liked about 2015 Photo: © Stefano Cagnoni

The Christmas season is now very much upon us, and I do hope you have the chance to enjoy the countryside during the holidays.

As we get close to the new year, it’s also time to reflect on the past 12 months – and 2015 certainly stands out as one of the busiest campaigning periods in our recent history. And looking back on that reminds me how important our supporters’ efforts have been in helping us achieve some great successes.

1. Safer cycling and walking

Early in the year thousands of you joined us in writing to MPs, calling for the Government to set out long-term funding and plans to increase cycling and walking. Ministers listened and now we’re looking forward to the publication of the first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in 2016.

2. Putting brownfield first

In June, we delivered our Charter to Save our Countryside to the Prime Minister, with more than 80,000 signatures. Alongside our Waste of Space campaign, this helped us influence the Government to announce incentives worth close to
£1 billion to boost building on brownfield sites; regenerating our towns and cities, and helping to protect the countryside.

3. Sharing Green Belt experiences

This year marked the 60th anniversary of England's Green Belts, designed to limit urban sprawl and provide a breath of fresh air for millions of people living in towns and cities. However, they are increasingly under pressure from development. You've helped us demonstrate how valuable and vital the Green Belt is by sharing your stories and memories on Our Green Belt website, inspiring others to go out and enjoy it, too.

4. Tackling litter

Just over three years ago, thousands of you campaigned with us and the Break the Bag Habit coalition in writing to your MPs and sending letters to your local papers calling for a compulsory charge on plastic carrier bags. Finally, in early October a 5p bag charge came into force, an important step in helping to reduce litter that has already shown results – an 80% drop in plastic bag use has already been reported by some supermarkets.

5. Victory for our National Parks

After many years of campaigning with the Campaign for National Parks, the Friends of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales Society, we achieved an extension to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, announced at the end of October. We could not have done this without the support of the many thousands of you who supported the campaign by writing to your local MPs and Defra.

6. Protecting landscape

We're working with the Stakeholder Advisory Group in supporting National Grid's work to reduce unsightly pylons in protected areas, primarily through putting cables underground. Four projects have now been prioritised; Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Winterbourne Abbas, New Forest National Park near Hale, Peak District National Park near Dunford Bridge and Snowdonia National Park near Porthmadog. Thank you once again to the many thousands of you who wrote letters to your local MPs and to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to support the campaign.

7. Making our mark

By supporting our campaigns you've made our voice stronger and enabled us to be heard in Parliament, helping us achieve those successes. In the coming year, we'll need to continue fighting threats to the countryside particularly from changes to planning rules, energy and transport issues.

8. Celebrating our 90th anniversary next year

Thank you again for supporting our campaigns and helping us achieve so many successes to protect the countryside. Next year will mark our 90th anniversary as guardians of England’s beautiful countryside and will see us looking even further forward to our Vision for the Countryside in 2026, our centenary year.

We hope you will celebrate with us in marking our 90th birthday and in the meantime wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year from everyone at CPRE.

2015 certainly stands out as one of the busiest campaigning periods in our recent history

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