Unlike many environmental charities, CPRE has no vested interests – we own no land, rely solely on donations and grants, and are politically independent. We make decisions with the head not the heart, as much as we love the countryside, and we are possibly the only green group which has a completely holistic approach. Planning, in particular, is all about looking at the bigger picture, and our wide remit means we have to consider the whole of the country – rural and urban – when creating policy.
We want to see a protected countryside, but within the context of a healthier economy and a happier community, and we don’t think they are mutually exclusive. CPRE believes that people have the right to enjoy a protected countryside, and we have the ambition to make it happen.
Achievements like rural planning, National Parks and Green Belts didn’t happen overnight; they took decades of campaigning, careful organisation and reasoned argument. At many stages they seemed impossible dreams, but now it is hard to imagine an England without them.
The reason we were able to achieve these things? We were armed with a clear and compelling vision, in the form of Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s manifesto. Above all, CPRE has always campaigned on its values, and it is this ethos that runs through our Vision for the Countryside of 2026, our centenary year.
It is worth exploring the main messages of that Vision as we focus on the positive outcomes we want to achieve in the next 15 years.
Better planning will ensure we reinvigorate towns and cities, while local people will be able to take an active role in planning truly green energy and transport infrastructure.
New life in the countryside will emerge through affordable housing, transport, vital services and new business shaped by empowered rural communities themselves.
Protecting local food will see farmers thrive and provide healthy, fresh and seasonal food for us all. Farmland will be recognised as far too valuable to build on – for its beauty as well as its productivity – and we will get close to self-sufficiency in food, hugely reducing food miles.
Our landscapes will have changed to incorporate wilderness, woodlands and wetlands, encouraging wildlife and allowing nature to become a barrier to climate change. Urban green spaces will link people in cities to our finest landscapes using Green Belts and hedgerows as wildlife corridors.
Green energy will be in harmony with the landscape – increasingly in small-scale networks which really benefit local communities and minimise damage to the environment. All buildings will be energy efficient and have close to zero-carbon emissions, while wasteful light pollution will be a thing of the past.
Above all, we will change attitudes – beauty, tranquillity, green spaces and local distinctiveness will be valued by all, creating deeper attachments to local landscapes and making quality of life and well-being as important as financial prosperity and economic growth.
I hope you will be encouraged to see that, nationally and locally, CPRE are already working towards achieving our Vision and actively persuading others to join the movement. Please join us in standing up for your countryside.