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Call to arms as CPRE unveil charter to stop destruction of the English countryside

14 July 2013


‘Precisely at the moment when we should be defending the countryside, and making it more accessible because it gives us all what we need more freely than anything else under the sun – we are at grave risk of losing it.’ CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion



As the evidence mounts that Government planning reforms are not working the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today (Monday) launches a three point charter to save our countryside. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was intended to simplify planning and get houses built. The reforms have not delivered the housing people need and are instead causing harm to communities and landscapes.


CPRE believes that unsustainable and increasing pressure is being placed on the countryside, and sensible planning is undermined by short-sighted pursuit of economic growth at any cost. 


Sir Andrew says: ‘If we are to reverse this trend we must act immediately and fight for as long as it takes.’


CPRE’s charter demands are:


Don’t sacrifice our countryside [1]

Our open spaces are being destroyed unnecessarily. Previously developed brownfield land should be re-used first to protect the beauty and tranquillity of our countryside and breathe new life into our towns and cities.


A fair say for local communities [2]

Local people are increasingly unable to stop the destruction of their towns and countryside. The cards are stacked in favour of powerful developers. We want a democratic planning system that gives communities a much stronger say in the future of their area. 


More housing –in the right places [3]

The country urgently needs more affordable homes for our rising population, including in villages and market towns. But they must be sensitively located; with excellent environmental standards and high quality design that enhances local character. 


Celebrity and political supporters include:

CPRE’s charter to save our countryside is supported by Sir Terry Farrell, CBE, Bill Bryson, Lady Caroline Cranbrook, Jonathan Dimbleby, Sir Max Hastings, John Julius Norwich, Jonathon Porritt, Penny Vincenzi, and political supporters include Nick Herbert MP, Martin Horwood MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Clive Betts MP and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.


Successive governments have failed to protect the countryside. Since 1989, on average, 67 square kilometres of undeveloped land, or an area larger than the city of Southampton, has been lost every year to development. [4] 


In a recent analysis of emerging and adopted Local Plans CPRE has found that at least 500,000 new houses are planned on greenfield sites. If these houses were built at the average densities of recent years it would result in the further loss of over 150 square kilometres of green fields. This is at a time when it is estimated that there are brownfield sites available for over 1.5 million homes. [5]


Successive governments have failed to deliver the housing people need. Research shows thatthe number of affordable houses completed in 2012/13 had dropped by more than a quarter compared with the previous year. [6]


CPRE recognises that we need more houses, including affordable housing in rural areas, but to be sustainable they must be in the right places, rather than granted planning permission regardless of the environmental consequences.


Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive says: ‘A beautiful countryside, better places to live and economic prosperity all rely on good planning, which in turn depends on giving people a proper say in what development should go where. CPRE’s charter to save our countryside points the way to a planning system that can deliver the development the country needs, in the right places and with popular consent. 


‘The Government wants quality development and it wants to look after the countryside, but it is in denial about the impact its policies are having across England. Minister must listen to the anger of communities, urban as well as rural, who currently feel ignored. We need mass support for CPRE’s charter to save our countryside so that Ministers will be persuaded to sit up and take notice of what is really happening.’ 


In support of the charter, CPRE will be:


  • holding a campaign event in Westminster on Tuesday 16 July, bringing together key politicians on the planning agenda with local action groups from across the country [7]. The lobby and debate will ensure that the concerns of groups representing thousands of local people are heard by their MPs; and


  • lobbying the Government for changes to the NPPF. A year after its introduction it is clear that, despite the Government’s reassurances, local authorities are allowing unprecedented building on greenfield land, including the Green Belt. This, in turn, is undermining development in our towns and cities, particularly of the higher quality homes needed to encourage urban regeneration. 


Sir Andrew Motion concluded: ‘It is time to stand up for the countryside, to replace the developers’ charter with a people’s charter. I hope everyone who loves England’s beautiful, unique countryside - our great inheritance - will support CPRE’s charter to save our countryside. 



Support CPRE’s charter at



Notes to Editors


[1] Briefing for charter point 1 - Don't sacrifice our countryside

[2] Briefing for charter point 2 - A fair say for local communities

[3] Briefing for charter point 3 - More housing in the right places

[4] See Government land use change statistics (Live Table P261)


[5] CPRE (2011) Building on a Small Island The 500,000 figure is based on survey work carried out over a four month period to June 2013 by CPRE volunteers of emerging and currently adopted Local Plans across England. It is a guideline figure and not comprehensive as it does not, for example, include all greenfield sites which have planning permission to be developed, nor does the 150 km2 figure include greenfield sites allocated in local plans for retail or warehouse development. According to 2010 Government figures (Land Use Change Statistics Live Table P231) the average density of new housing schemes built on greenfield sites was 32 dwellings per hectare (there are 100 hectares in a square kilometre).




[7] Journalists are welcome to attend the Westminster event, which will be held between 2 – 4.30pm on Tuesday 16th July. For further information on venue and agenda please contact the press office.




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