Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

Skip to navigation

Protecting open countryside

Aythorpe Roding mill, Essex Aythorpe Roding mill, Essex Photo: © David Hughes/

Planning Minister Nick Boles has said that more than 1,500 square miles of open countryside needs to be built on to meet housing demand. This is a huge area, twice the size of Greater London.

CPRE argue there is a shortage of finance, not land suitable for housing. Developers already have planning permission for 400,000 homes; there are brownfield sites for another 1.5 million and we still have 330,000 long-term empty homes in the UK.

The value of open countryside
England's open, unprotected countryside is the farmland outside National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belts. This equates to an area almost three-and-a-half times the size of Wales now threatened by inappropriate development and urban sprawl. This unprotected countryside not only includes some of England's most attractive landscapes - see our gallery below - but also provides healthy local food, habitats for wildlife, and tranquillity and open space for wellbeing. It helps mitigate the impact of climate change by absorbing floodwater and storing carbon, and is of huge value to millions of people who live in, visit and enjoy it.

Green fields under threat
Thanks to CPRE's campaigning, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March recognised 'the intrinsic character and beauty" of the 55% of English countryside with no formal protection. This gave clear guidance to local councils that building on green fields should not be an option of first resort. Now, the words of the Planning Minister, and the progress of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill through Parliament, undermine the principle of building on brownfield land first and risk the needless destruction of irreplaceable countryside.

CPRE want the Growth and Infrastructure Bill to be amended so that local councils aren't forced to rush through planning applications or risk having them decided by the Secretary of State. The Bill marks a return to 'top-down government' - despite the coalition's commitment to localism - and would lead to developers targetting sites in open, unprotected countryside.

Take action
: Ask your MP to stand up for your countryside 

Find out more: Are you in unprotected countryside? zoom in on your area on our high-resolution map

Back to top

Suffolk boats on Aldeburgh beach Suffolk coast AONB