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1991 – 2000: when global went local

Young girl picking blackberries
Blackberries are plentiful in our hedgerows in August and September Abigail Oliver

The early 90s saw the environment go global with the Rio Earth Summit. The then CPRE director led the UK NGO lobbying ahead of the summit. This led to Agenda 21, which dominated so much local environmental activity in the run-up to the millennium. We also saw the long haul of our campaign for hedgerow protection come to fruition, our pioneering tranquillity mapping and the publication of Richard Rogers’ Urban Taskforce report, to which CPRE made a significant contribution.


Our Energy Conscious Planning report warned against the environmental dangers of car-dependency and energy-intensive development. We recommended:

  • binding targets for emissions reduction
  • primary legislation to extend environmental assessment to government and local authority policies, plans and programmes
  • a statutory duty on environment and transport secretaries (and all planning authorities) to ‘further the efficient use of energy’
  • policy guidance that new development’s must optimise energy efficiency in siting, design, layout, construction and energy supply/conservation


CPRE director Fiona Reynolds led the UK environmental NGOs’ lobbying ahead of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. She argued that the efficient use of land was the best way to protect the countryside and achieve ‘sustainable development’ – a term enshrined in UK planning policy that year.

CPRE called on the UK government to press for the Rio Earth Summit to commit ‘to stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a precautionary level so as to minimise anthropogenic interference with climate’ and promote ‘the overwhelming importance of energy efficiency in positively addressing climate change’. CPRE was at the forefront of the debate and coordinated the ‘Putting Our Own House In Order’ report. This represented the views of WWF, RSPB, National Trust and many others.

Ahead of the summit, Fiona Reynolds was one of 12 NGO reps from business, development and environmental organisations who met John Major to brief him on key issues. Reynolds led the environmental debate and said that the government’s target to stabilise carbon emissions was not adequate, and that a reduction of at least 20% by 2000 (on 1990 levels) was the minimum requirement. She cited the fact that the government’s roads programme could more than double carbon emissions from the road transport sector as evidence the UK was failing to implement sustainable policies at home.


In landmark new planning guidance, the government endorsed the role of the planning system in helping reduce car dependence and the need to travel.

CPRE’s Urban Footprints campaign highlighted the crucial relationship between town and country, and the benefits to be won for both from sensitive urban regeneration.


Legislation to protect hedgerows and give independence to National Parks was passed in the Environment Act 1995. These were both longstanding CPRE campaigns.

CPRE published pioneering Tranquillity Maps quantifying ‘tranquillity’ as something tangible and measurable for the first time. It showed how tranquil areas had been shattered by new development and increased traffic over the past thirty years.


New planning guidance curbed the spread of out-of-town shopping development and encourages town centre development.


Laws to protect our best hedgerows from being grubbed up came into force – the fruit of a 25-year CPRE campaign.

CPRE published ‘The English countryside – a view for the future’ as a vision for the new millennium. ‘We need the countryside, and nature, for our own good. It actually improves our mental health, and because of this, it improves our physical health too.’


Lord Rogers’ government-appointed Urban Task Force published its influential report on achieving an urban renaissance. This report had substantial CPRE input and would help protect the countryside.

The government announced plans for a new National Park for the New Forest, following CPRE lobbying.


After years of CPRE campaigning, new official planning policies on housing marked a radical shift away from low-density sprawl and towards using previously developed ‘brownfield’ land for new homes before greenfield sites are built over. We launched our ‘Sprawl Patrol’ campaign to promote these new policies locally.

The government relented on proposals to relax controls over rural advertising hoardings after strong CPRE protest.