Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

Skip to navigation
Monday, 06 February 2012 00:00

Stunning new maps show countryside at risk

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today launches a report with detailed new maps showing that 55 per cent of England’s countryside could be at increased risk from development as a consequence of the Government’s reforms of the planning system. This equates to an area almost three-and-a-half times the size of Wales [1].

See our interactive web article with slideshow

Download the Map of England

Excluding areas with nationally recognised designations, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), as well as Green Belt, CPRE found that the majority of England’s countryside could be at increased risk of development and urban sprawl [2].

For decades English planning policy has recognised the intrinsic value of the wider countryside, including undesignated areas. The draft National Planning Policy Framework, which is due to be finalised shortly, omits such a policy. At most risk is countryside in the East Midlands with 73 per cent of its area undesignated, followed by the East of England with 66 per cent undesignated.

Download regional and county maps

The Prime Minister recently described west Oxfordshire as “one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England's finest countryside” and stated that he would “no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family” [3]. This strength of feeling is welcomed by CPRE, but 55 per cent of the Prime Minister’s constituency will be at greater risk unless his Government amends the draft NPPF to include recognition of the importance of the wider, undesignated countryside.

CPRE's research shows that, out of the top 150 constituencies with the most ordinary countryside at risk, five are held by Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister's Oxfordshire constituency of Witney. Conservative MPs hold 118 of the 150 most at risk constituencies, 14 are held by Liberal Democrats and 17 by Labour. One of the constituencies is Buckingham which is held by the Speaker John Bercow.

Download the full report for further constituency data

Fiona Howie, Head of Planning at CPRE, says: “We are pleased that the Government’s planning reforms will retain protections for specially designated countryside. But Ministers have provided no reassurance that the final NPPF will recognise the value of the wider, undesignated countryside that makes up more than half of England’s rural landscape.

“We are not seeking a national policy that would prevent all development. But if we are to avoid damaging the character of rural areas by making it easier for inappropriate, speculative building to take place – a bungalow here, a distribution shed there - decision makers must be encouraged to take account of the intrinsic value of the wider countryside when considering development proposals. The imminent changes to the planning system should ensure that it is not only the specially designated areas that are valued.”

CPRE’s mapping of these areas show that many of England’s most attractive landscapes are not covered by nationally recognised designations or up to date local plans. And some areas of countryside are dependent on local plan protection which, in the absence of a supportive national policy, might not stand up to pressure from inappropriate development proposals.

Fiona Howie concluded: “If Ministers value the English countryside as a whole this should be reflected in the new national planning policies.  It would be risky to rely solely on any local protection for the wider countryside, the status of which is extremely uncertain [4]. Without national support, any protection local plans give to the wider countryside is likely to be challenged by developers. It’s important the Government gets this policy right first time round to avoid unnecessary damage to the countryside as the planning reforms are implemented on the ground.”  


Notes to Editors
[1] Total English Countryside area - 46,861 mi2, Total unprotected countryside area - 26,153 mi2, Total area of Wales - 7,722 mi2
[2] CPRE, Protecting the wider countryside – Mapping the potential impact of the National Planning Policy Framework, 06/02/12
[3] Stated by David Cameron in an interview on BBC’s Countryfile on 8 January 2012
[4] The Government has argued that local planning authorities will be able to protect the countryside through local plans if they wish to. However, as currently written, the draft National Planning Policy Framework would override local plan policies where they were ‘out of date’. Without further clarification from Government about the implementation of the proposed ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development this means that the status and weight of local plan polices is uncertain. The Government’s proposed local green space designation is untested and will not be an adequate alternative to an effective national policy.

Published in News release archive
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 15:22

New pocket guides make local planning accessible

To help explain the latest Government reforms to the English planning system, a series of new guides and events are helping lead people through the planning labyrinth.

The new series of three pocket guides make it clear how people can influence the future of the area in which they live [1]. They detail how people can contribute to both neighbourhood and local plans, and describe how to respond to planning applications.

Complementing these guides are a series of local events being run across the country by local branches of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC). The events are taking place between now and the end of March [2].

Nigel Pedlingham, Project Manager at CPRE says: “The first contact many people have with the planning system is when something they don’t like is proposed on their doorstep. But we want people to understand why they should get involved in the planning system before something like this happens. In this way engaging with planning can be a positive experience.

“With our guides and events, we are trying to help people understand how best to get involved. We want people to help shape their communities proactively and be a part of deciding what changes they want to see in their area. Following the recent planning reforms, the best way to do this is by contributing to their local and neighbourhood plans.”

Justin Griggs, Head of Policy and Development at NALC, says: “Planning is an important issue for local (parish and town) councils and the communities they serve. Planning directly affects the environment in which people live and for too long they have struggled to understand how to get involved in the system in order to make a difference. The new planning reforms give people and local councils a chance to have a real influence over what happens where they live.

“These three easy-to-read guides coupled with the interactive e-learning [3] are simple resources to help walk people through the established and newly emerging planning system.”

The Guides:

How to respond to planning applications: an 8-step guide [4] - is a 61 page A5 booklet that gives an easy to follow, step-by-step guide to responding to a local planning application. For many this will be the first time they come into contact with the planning system. This guide aims to make the process simple, straight forward, and help any submissions to have the largest and most effective impact.

Planning Explained [5] - is 69 page A5 booklet that gives an introduction to the planning system and explains why it is important if you want to help decide the future of your community. The guide focuses on the role of local plans, where the big decisions on planning for the future of communities and land are made. It includes an eight step guide on how to get involved and contribute to your local plan.

How to shape where you live: a guide to neighbourhood planning [6] – is a 61 page A5 booklet that focuses on the role of neighbourhood plans. It explains their purpose and gives a simple eight step guide on how to start drafting an effective neighbourhood plan.

Free local planning events:

The CPRE/NALC planning events will deliver essential information about the importance of engaging with the local planning system, how to influence local plans, and how to develop neighbourhood plans. These events are being organised by branches of CPRE and county associations of local councils.

A full list of the free local planning events and training sessions is available at

Free E-learning program

Short courses that examine the step-by-step processes outlined in the guides using real world scenarios. The courses are free and available to everyone at


Notes to Editors
[1] The guides and events have been produced, by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in partnership with the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).   The guides have been prepared with the help of Land Use Consultants.  They form part of CPRE/NALC’s delivery of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) ‘Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning’ project.
[2] Full listings of the ‘Planning’ events can be found at:
[3] The e-learning resources are available at
[4] CPRE and NALC, ‘How to respond to planning applications: an 8-step guide,’ October 2011,
[5] CPRE and NALC, ‘Planning Explained,’ December 2011,
[6] CPRE and NALC, ‘How to shape where you live: a guide to neighbourhood planning,’ January 2012,

For cover images of the guides, please contact the CPRE press office. See the top of the release for details.

Published in News release archive
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 13:29

Building in a small island

This report responds to one of the potentially most far reaching changes proposed in the Government’s consultation draft National Planning Policy Framework. It examines the proposals to cease giving clear priority nationally to development on brownfield sites (formally called ‘previously developed land’) before greenfield. It also considers the implications of the related recent policy changes made by the Government to drop the minimum housing density range which has until recently been recommended as national policy.

Published in Planning
Nine leading practitioners and politicians express strong support for brownfield first.
Published in Planning
Sunday, 16 October 2011 15:46

Planning for quality by Nicholas Crane

Here in England, 81 per cent of us are urban citizens. By 2030, that figure will have risen to 92 per cent. In five centuries, we have switched from being an almost completely rural people to almost completely urban. The effect of urbanisation on the landscape has been transformative. In the long, post-glacial history of landscape evolution, the appearance of towns and cities has been very sudden, very recent. The history of green-field development in the UK is less a tale of gradual evolution, than of urban shock and awe.

In the hundred years between 1500 and 1600, the population of England doubled from 2 million to 4.1 million. And then the population doubled again. By 1800, the UK population had soared to 11 million, which is where the graph really takes off and becomes a hockey-stick curve. The census of 1911 recorded 42 million and we’re now at 62.3 million. A few years ago, England became the most densely populated major nation in Europe. In the world rankings of major countries by population density, England comes in at number three, after Bangladesh and South Korea.

Breakneck urbanisation
The extra 60 million or so that have populated these lands since 1500 have made their presence most apparent in urban areas. The old notion of a ‘town’ has been swamped. New urban labels have had to be invented. We have travelled from market town to ‘megalopolis’ in a blink of history. The UK has been continually-inhabited for the last 12,000 years or so, but really breakneck urbanisation has been concentrated into the last 200 years. In the last century alone, the housing stock of Great Britain increased three-fold, from about 7 million to 22 million permanent dwellings.

Projections suggest that the population will continue to increase and peak at around 65 million in 2050, about 2.7 million above today’s total, before beginning a gradual decline. So we have to house a further 2.7 million people. To put it in its urban context, that is nearly three cities the size of Birmingham (992,000). In the next forty years.

Planning for the future
2050 is a truly historic turning point. The urban population of these islands has been growing for thousands of years. Forty years from now, or thereabouts, it will stop. We have to be very careful indeed what we do now; how we plan for these final forty years of rapid growth. In terms of population expansion and urban growth we’re not in the final straight; we’re in the final few strides. We have to provide for 2.7 million people; the addition of just over 4 per cent to our existing population. This is not a moment to make rushed - or rash - decisions, because what we plan now; what we build now, is going to end up being part of the final fabric of these islands.

How we provide homes, food, water, and transport and so on for three more Birminghams is of pressing importance. Fortunately, we’re not having to make a standing start. Planning permission already exists for 280,000 houses whose foundations have yet to be laid; there are around 750,000 ‘long-term empty’ houses, and it’s been estimated that brown-field sites have the capacity to absorb as many as 3 million houses.

Building on green field sites in the countryside - remote from jobs, services and public transport hubs - is no solution. It’s not a sustainable, or a resilient, option.

Our countryside is too precious to lose
The UK is currently 72 per cent self sufficient in staple foods like meat and fresh vegetables - down from 95 per cent in 1984. Fields, woodland, uncultivated land, the coastal strip - our countryside - are essential for crops, grazing, biodiversity, fresh water. And recreation. If you live in one of the most densely populated lands in the world, open space, green space, is inestimably valuable.

It’s not as if three Birminghams plonked in the UK countryside would destroy it all, but you only have to look at Ireland, or Spain, or Greece, to see what happens when planning restrictions are relaxed. It’s not that the place we call countryside completely disappears, but more that the sense of rurality - that combination of tranquillity, nature and built forms that have been introduced by humans working the land - becomes disfigured; degraded.

In England, 65 per cent of land lies outside cities, towns, green belts and protected parks. It’s this 65 per cent that developers have their eyes on. One of the reasons that the rural English landscape is still such a beautiful place is that it’s been protected by a fundamental planning principle, that long-term use of the land should take precedence over an owner’s right to profit. That is why - as Simon Jenkins put it in the Guardian recently, ‘there are no bungalows on the white cliffs of Dover and no wind farms on the Chilterns. It is why, when you look out over the Severn Valley, you do not see Bristol merged with Gloucester.’

Making the most of towns and cities
It’s time we revalued urban living as one of our most environmentally-friendly habits. Urbanisation is a positive trend; it minimises our impact on the planet. ‘Density,’ as the UN Population Fund put it recently, ‘is potentially useful.’ Public transport, shared housing, jobs and so on are more available in towns and cities than they are in villages. Urbanisation concentrates human impacts into confined areas, with lower per capita carbon footprints.

The three Birminghams have to be plugged into existing infrastructures wherever possible. That means increasing population densities in our existing cities and towns; it means making full use of brownfield sites. To give a rough idea of the scale of the challenge; housing 2.7 million people in new homes is equivalent to each of the UK’s 66 towns and cities with populations above 100,000 absorbing a further 10,000 people each, and each of the UK’s remaining 1,400 towns absorbing a further 1,500 each.

Many of you will belong to a generation that is going to witness the end of rapid urban growth. As the demographic brakes are applied, the form of our cities and towns will become less fluid, more crystalised. Urban footprints will stabilise, and we’ll enter a new era of long-term planning where the focus will be on function rather than expansion. An era of intelligent buildings, intelligent transportation; sustainability. An age where form and process matters more than growth. At its most simplistic, it’s a switch from planning for quantity, to planning for quality. And that is immensely exciting.

Nicholas Crane
Fellow, Royal Geographical Society
Vice President, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Excerpts from a lecture to the Royal Geographical Society, 10 October 2011

Take action Ask your MP to press for the planning system to protect the countryside

Find out more Royal Geographical Society

Published in Features

The document outlines legal advice given to CPRE on the Government's draft National Planning Policy Framework.

Published in Planning
Monday, 05 September 2011 12:38

Osborne and Pickles: talking, not listening

Responding to comments made by Chancellor George Osborne and Communities Sectary Eric Pickles in a joint article for the Financial Times (, Shaun Spiers, Campaign to Protect Rural England Chief Executive, says:

“The Treasury’s ill-informed intervention in the planning debate reinforces the sense that the Government’s planning reforms are more about boosting short term growth figures than about truly sustainable development.  

“It is unfortunate that just as Greg Clark has offered to talk with critics of the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), his senior colleagues have indicated that they are unwilling to listen or to compromise, preferring to talk of their ‘determination to win this battle’. 

“No one is defending unacceptable delays in the planning system.  We agree that it needs reform.  And we agree that the country needs many more homes, particularly affordable homes. 

“But there is no good evidence that the planning system is stopping us building the homes we need, or that it is holding back economic recovery.  The Government’s proposals to skew the planning system in favour of economic development at the expense of environmental and social considerations are unlikely to result in more development, just more poor quality development on greenfield land.

“Unless the Government thinks again, its proposals will cause irreversible damage to both our towns and countryside.  It is time that David Cameron stepped in to ensure a planning system that can genuinely serve the public interest, not just short-term economic interests.” 

This is not the first time that the Treasury has attempted to undermine the public interest role of planning and elevate economic ends over people and places.  Commenting on Gordon Brown’s efforts to liberalise the planning system in 2004, Eric Pickles said:

“The Treasury seems … determined to loosen control to make development easier…  Adding to suburban sprawl will detract from rather than help urban regeneration and Brownfield redevelopment, and fuel the migration from our towns and cities.”

He went on to say: “There has to be a greater emphasis on regenerating our towns and cities, and using previously developed Brownfield land on which to focus new development.  That has the advantage of building within communities rather that over them.” [1]

The draft NPPF proposes to end the ‘brownfield first’ policy first introduced by the last Conservative Government in 1995.

Notes to Editors
[1] Eric Pickles website:

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our 57,000 members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Bill Bryson, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

Published in News release archive

The purpose of this response by CPRE to the Communities and Local Government is to provide additional detail on how the National Planning Policy Framework should treat the issue of minerals planning.



Published in Quarrying and mining
Page 3 of 3

Back to top

Suffolk Herringfleet smock mill