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Countryside campaigners urge Government to translate positive rhetoric into decisive action on rural tranquillity

24 May 2015

Screenshot from Tranquillity map at maps.cpre.org.uk Screenshot from Tranquillity map at maps.cpre.org.uk

CPRE argues national data and mapping are needed to protect most tranquil parts of England

New research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), published today, shows that better data collection and a new indicator of tranquillity are needed to increase protection for England’s most peaceful areas.

In surveying a range of authorities, from National Parks to borough councils, CPRE’s Give peace a chance report shows that 90 per cent of authorities would like better guidance and new data to develop tranquillity policies [1]. More than 90 per cent of respondents support the case for new national tranquillity maps, which CPRE believes could greatly help local authorities when new infrastructure projects are planned.

Numerous studies show that immersion in nature is good for health and wellbeing [2]. Tranquillity is therefore a vital resource for people to relieve stress and recharge their batteries. Yet, in 2007, CPRE’s ‘intrusion’ mapping showed that such areas are getting rarer: the tranquillity of England is being increasingly fragmented by urban development and new infrastructure [3].

CPRE’s report finds that some planning authorities have successfully developed policies to protect tranquillity since 2012, when the Government’s flagship planning reform, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), encouraged them to do so. Yet the report indicates that few authorities outside of those set up to manage protected areas like National Parks have implemented policies protecting tranquillity – and 75 per cent of authorities without a current policy do not plan to introduce one.

Following recent speeches from senior Conservatives advocating the importance of sensitive infrastructure design, and related manifesto commitments [4], CPRE is calling for Government to invest in planning guidance, an agreed definition of tranquillity, and a new “indicator” of tranquillity - including maps and supporting data.

Alongside investment from Government, CPRE would like to see infrastructure providers and regulators set up design panels, as demonstrated by HS2 and Highways England. The panels would develop good design principles aimed at mitigating the impacts of new infrastructure on rural tranquillity through methods such as putting power lines underground, tunnelling and tree planting.

To help people find their nearest tranquil spaces, and to see the most disrupted areas, CPRE is also now releasing its 2007 tranquillity maps in an interactive format [5]. These maps are the best resource for councils to identify tranquillity in their area - yet date back nearly a decade. This highlights the urgent need for a new Government-backed indicator with data to support it.


Tranquillity map

Where can you feel like you are ‘getting away from it all’?

tranquillity map zoomed out 300x170px

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the interactive 2007 tranquillity map


Graeme Willis, rural campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“It’s encouraging that Government has looked afresh at how good design can reduce the impact of new infrastructure, and pledged to provide new maps of open-access green space. But our research shows that councils are unlikely to drive forward the policies we need to protect some of our most tranquil areas without better open data and guidance.

“The Coalition Government introduced a landmark national policy to protect areas of tranquillity. We’re therefore calling on the new Government to build on their manifesto commitments and invest a modest amount to enable councils to improve quality of life in their communities.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

[1] In conducting the research for Give peace a chance, CPRE surveyed local authorities, including National Park Authorities, borough and district councils and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). The research aimed to explore where tranquillity policy had been adopted, the reasons why it had not, and the implications for the development of tranquillity policy locally and nationally.

The survey was sent to 340 local authorities, including National Park Authorities (NPAs), as well as 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural beauty (AONBs). 69 of these responded. These were from 41 Planning Authorities (other than NPAs), 9 National Park Authorities and 19 AONBs. This gives a response rate of 18 per cent, and a potentially more positive picture of policy success than is actually the case. This is because the response rate was high from protected areas where tranquillity is generally identified as a special environmental quality.

[2] See research cited in R. Bragg, C. Wood and J. Barton, Ecominds effects on Mental Wellbeing, Mind, 2013, p. 12. See also the most recent Natural England MENE survey [2014] of the public’s engagement with the natural environment, which found that 88 per cent of people agreed they felt calm and relaxed and 87 per cent of people felt refreshed and revitalised after a visit to the natural environment - mainly urban greenspaces and the wider countryside (see Figure 3.10 Outcomes of visits to the natural environment).

[3] In 2007 CPRE found that intrusion from roads, urban development and airports affected around 50 per cent of England, up from 41 per cent in the early 1990s. CPRE’s intrusion map is available to download.

[4] In February 2015, the Rt. Hon John Hayes MP, roads minister for the Coalition Government, explored how good design and beauty can be incorporated in the road network in a lecture for CPRE and the Campaign for Better Transport: “Our goal is not just to undo the most intrusive, insensitive road design of the past 50 years. It’s to create a new aesthetic. Values that reflect and even enhance the beauty of the local landscape. We need a new understanding that improving our road network isn’t just about speeding up journeys at any cost. It’s about creating a network that works better for communities and the environment too.”

This was followed by a commitment in the Conservative manifesto 2015 (pp. 54-55) to “build new infrastructure in an environmentally-sensitive way” and for new roads and railways at least to be built “in a way that limits, as far as possible, their impact on the environment.” The manifesto also committed the Government to developing new open-access green space maps: “We will make it easier to access our beautiful landscapes, by providing free, comprehensive maps of all open-access green space.”

[5] In 2005-06 CPRE worked with Natural England and Newcastle and Northumbria universities to produce new tranquillity maps that are still useful today. Published in 2006 and 2007 these illustrated how fragmented tranquillity has become in the countryside, and identified relatively unspoilt areas that needed stronger protection.

If you would like to talk to Graeme Willis about the report in more detail then please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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 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: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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