Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

Skip to navigation


Roads Photo: © Highways England

CPRE view

CPRE wants to see a roads network where:

  • the impact of roads on the environment is reduced: road noise is reduced and our roads look more attractive
  • roads are safer for all, including people walking and cycling
  • fewer car journeys need to be made, rather than building more roads for more cars

To help achieve our vision we are campaigning for a national transport policy of ‘smarter travel first’ to make increasing road capacity the option of last resort.

CPRE and roads

When CPRE was set up in 1926, it was very rare for anyone to have a car. People also travelled a lot less than they do today, but when they did travel greater distances public transport was the main option. As cars become more commonplace, in both rural and urban areas, the focus of government policy shifted to road-building.

Visions of the future became about individual travel and a car became a commonplace aspiration. But this started to have a knock-on impact as parts of towns and villages were cut off from each other by major roads.

For rural communities, a key turning point was the Beeching cuts to railway services in the 1960s. Thousands of miles of train tracks were removed and thousands of stations closed, leaving many with no option but to drive.

It was at this time that CPRE started to take issue with the roads that were being built: not only were they destroying landscapes, ruining tranquillity and polluting the air we breathe, but the congestion issues got worse. We had some very notable successes, such as:

  • keeping the M4 out of the Berkshire Downs
  • stopping the Lyndhurst Bypass in the New Forest National Park
  • defeating the proposed Hereford Bypass through the Lugg Meadows

There was also a realisation that new roads filled up quickly with new cars. After significant research, the Government accepted the policy consensus that there was a phenomenon now known as ‘induced traffic’ . In other words, building roads actually creates traffic, rather than relieving it, because when more roads are built, more people are encouraged to drive and they drive more often.

Current issues

Twenty years after it was accepted that major road-building didn’t work, in spite of all the evidence collected previously, the Government is once again trying to build its way out of congestion. They’ve made plans for hundreds of new road schemes, costing £15 billion over the next five years.

In order to protect the majesty of the English countryside, the air we breathe and the green places we walk in with our families, we can’t let this happen. CPRE has already secured a Government commitment to produce England’s first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and seen £500 million ring fenced to fight some of the worst effects of existing roads, such as:

  • noise, air and water pollution
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • landscape and biodiversity loss

Now we’re going to fight these old-fashioned and damaging plans for even more tarmac through England’s countryside. Please join us and get involved.



Baldock bypass copyright David Rose 5223x149px

Hundreds of miles of new and widened roads threaten the countryside

Find out more about this issue and the Government road-building programme.

Better roads:

Suspended circular cycle bridge 223x149px

We need better roads rather than bigger ones

Find out more about this issue and how the Government could be making our existing roads better.

Smarter travel first:

Cyclist Oxford copyright Kamyar Adl 223x149px

To prevent the loss of our beautiful countryside to tarmac we need a transport system that’s smart

Find out more about this issue and why we’re calling for a national transport policy to put smarter travel first.

Back to top

Autumn shropshire hills - Shutterstock