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How our campaigning helps protect the countryside for everyone’s benefit

Sam Butler
By Sam Butler
26th June 2024

The recent election is a timely reminder that campaigning for a thriving, beautiful countryside for everyone, really does work. The campaign wins we’ve racked up since 2019 alone are proof of just that.

At this critical time for the nation, it’s worth taking one step back to remember the difference we can make together as a voice for the countryside.

Countryside solutions

Since the last general election in 2019, we’ve had three prime ministers, five environment secretaries and a new monarch, our Royal Patron His Majesty, King Charles. In this era of unprecedented change – and thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers – CPRE has remained a strong voice for the countryside.

When faced with the climate and nature crises we’d do well to remember the countryside holds many of the solutions. You just need to look up to our rooftops for the common-sense solution that reduces our emissions, slashes energy bills and spares land for nature all at once. And while it’s easy to think in boxes when attempting to balance the competing demands on our land. We know what’s needed is a long-term, cross-departmental vision for how we manage and use land.

As our CEO Roger Mortlock put it: ‘thinking about balancing the different demands on land is part of our DNA’. This is reflected in the breadth of our campaign wins in recent years.

Landmark decisions for hedgerows and farmers

Just last year, we celebrated a big step forward for nature and climate as the government finally announced an ambitious target to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037, and 45,000 miles of hedgerows by 2050. We’d been calling for a clear target to expand our hedgerow network for years nationally and locally. It was a huge campaign win and put farmers at the heart of plans to reconnect and re-establish the country’s largest nature reserve.

Staying with farming, our lobbying helped ensure the Agriculture Bill incorporated the principle of ‘public money for public goods’ and was based on the kind of ‘new model farming’ CPRE has championed since 2016.

Funding for affordable homes

Earlier that year, as a result of our campaigns, the government announced plans to encourage better use of previously developed land for housing through £400m of new funding and the creation of a national brownfield map.

The same month saw Jeremy Hunt’s budget include £12.2bn of funding for affordable homes. While we can’t claim all the credit, CPRE called for this kind of investment as part of a coalition with Crisis and the National Housing Federation.

A stronger voice for landscapes

In 2019 we were delighted that our submissions helped to influence the independent Landscapes review report to government. It agreed that Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (now National Landscapes) should be given more funding and a greater say over development.

An end to fracking

In 2018, the government announced proposals to fast-track fracking applications through the planning system. This would have been a disaster for efforts to fight the climate crisis, and for local communities. But in November 2019 we celebrated an end to all new shale gas extraction.

Our campaigning supported threatened communities and mobilised the public against plans to fast-track fracking. An influential national petition signed by 307,720 people included over 200,000 CPRE supporters.

More protections for the Green Belt

Following the 2019 general election the government accepted our challenge to commit to the protection of our Green Belts – a decision influenced by our research highlighting plans to build 266,000 homes on the Green Belt.

We exposed the myth that building on the Green Belt can solve the affordability crisis, by revealing that just 13% of homes built on land removed from its protection in the past decade have been affordable. And now our campaign to fix the broken housing system continues with a call for a redefinition of affordability based on local wages.

The future’s bright, the future’s ours to make differently

What these campaign wins tell us is that when we all work together we can be a powerful voice for the countryside. After all, when rural communities thrive, so does the countryside.

Read more about CPRE’s impact

Boy flying kite in the countryside
Michelle Cowbourne