The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is a registered charity with over 60,000 members and supporters. Formed in 1926 by Sir Patrick Abercrombie to limit urban sprawl and ribbon development, the CPRE (until 2003 the Council for the Preservation of Rural England) claims to be one of the longest running environmental groups. CPRE campaigns for a "sustainable future" for the English countryside. They state it is "a vital but undervalued environmental, economic and social asset to the nation." They aim to "highlight threats and promote positive solutions." They campaign using their own research to lobby the public and all levels of government.
It claims some credit for the slow shift of agricultural policies across Europe away from a price-support philosophy to one of environmental stewardship, a policy shift begun in England. Campaigns against noise and light pollution have been pursued over recent years, and CPRE is now focusing on "tranquillity" as a key aspect of the countryside which CPRE wants to see protected in England’s planning policies.
The CPRE has been criticised for scaremongering over the threat to rural England. The CPRE has often warned that the countryside was in danger of being 'concreted over'
- after the Birmingham 2002 Housing Summit
- after the Thames Gateway development was announced
- after the government-sponsored 2005 review into housing supply by economist Kate Barker
- and since the proposal of up to thirty new 'eco-towns'
In fact these policy initiatives were mostly ineffective.
Critics characterise CPRE as
- proponents of a drawbridge mentality (i.e. "I've moved to the countryside but I don't want others to do likewise")
- motivated by luddite nostalgia, or
- motivated by an egotist NIMBY stance
In December 2008 George Monbiot of The Guardian interviewed CPRE head, Shaun Spiers, about the organisation's opposition to wind farms but not opencast coal mines. George Monbiot asked why he couldn't find any opposition of the CPRE to surface coal mining over the past five years, and pointed out that the negative effects that coal mines cause by removing the soil from large areas are much greater than the negative effects wind energy might have on the countryside. . However in 2010 campaigning against inappropriate mineral extraction by opencast mining featured under the 'Climate change and natural resources' section of their website. 
In addition there are CPRE branches in each of England’s counties and groups in over 200 districts. All but two of the 43 CPRE branches are independent charities of their own. CPRE Durham and CPRE Northumberland are subsidiaries of national CPRE.
CPRE’s current campaigns include:
- Influencing development plans at local, regional and national level.
- Reducing “clutter” in the form of unnecessary road signs and advertising billboards in the countryside and seeking ways to protect quiet rural roads
- Creating a tool to map tranquillity in the countryside and finding ways for this to be used by local and regional planners
- Protecting hedgerows
- Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and fighting for farmers to be recognised for the work they do in protecting the character of the countryside
- Lobbying for more affordable housing to be built in rural areas
- Lobbying planners to ensure that as many new developments as possible are built on Brownfield (rather than Greenfield) land. In particular it is fighting for the protection of Green Belts.
- Reducing litter in rural areas across England via local action and events and lobbying government
- Supporting campaigns against 'surface' or opencast mining .
CPRE was formed following the publication of “The Preservation of Rural England” by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in 1926. Sir Patrick became its Honorary Secretary. Its first campaign was against the spread of ribbon developments which it saw as carving up the countryside. It also began arguing the case for protecting areas of England’s most beautiful countryside, and for setting up Green Belts to preserve the character of towns and give town dwellers easy access to the countryside.
Its campaigning helped lead to the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
When England’s first motorway the M1 was proposed in 1957 CPRE successfully campaigned for it to avoid the heart of Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire (the road was put into a cutting). Similarly when the M4 was built in 1963 CPRE successfully fought to protect the Berkshire Downs. It also began at this time to seek for tighter control on advertising hoardings along roadsides.
In 1985 in a campaign to reform the EC’s Agricultural Structures Directive, CPRE stopped funding for many damaging agricultural activities and secured the first “green” farm payments. In 1988 it helped persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to scrap tax incentives favouring blanket conifer plantations in scenic areas.
In 1990 the Government’s first ever Environment White Paper accepted the case for hedgerow protection, 20 years after CPRE’s campaign was first launched, and in 1997 laws to protect hedgerows finally came into force.
In 1995 CPRE published “tranquillity” maps which show the diminishing areas of the countryside not disturbed by man-made noise, visual intrusion or light pollution. These were updated using a pioneering new methodology in 2006. CPRE also published similar maps focusing solely on light pollution in 2003.
In April 2006 CPRE Peak District & South Yorkshire sought to clarify its identity across its vast territory by operating under two distinct identities. Due to its long association with Peak District National Park, the organisation operates as the Friends of the Peak District in the Peak District National Park, High Peak Borough and six parishes of North East Derbyshire (Eckington, Unstone, Holmesfield, Killamarsh, Dronfield, Barlow).
In 2007 CPRE published a series of intrusion maps which highlighted areas disturbed by the presence of noise and visual intrusion from major infrastructure such as motorways and A roads, urban areas and airports. The resulting maps show the extent of intrusion in the early 1960s, early 1990s and 2007.
- Patron: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
- President: Bill Bryson
- Chairman: Peter Wain
- Chief Executive: Shaun Spiers
Other CPRE people
- Neville Chamberlain – life member, spoke at the launch of CPRE in 1926,
- Sir Guy Dawber - first President 1926
- Sir Herbert J G Griffin – General Secretary 1926-1965
- Michael Eden - President 1973-1977
- Sir Colin Buchanan – President 1980-1985
- David Puttnam – President 1985-1992
- Jonathan Dimbleby – President 1992-1997
- Prunella Scales – President 1997-2002
- Sir Max Hastings - President 2002-2007
- Bill Bryson - President 2007-
- ^ Making our mark - 80 years of campaigning for the countryside by Tristram Hunt
- ^ Living Landscapes: Hidden Costs of Managing the Countryside, available from the CPRE website
- ^ Minute 636, Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence, 6 March 2002
- ^ Sir Nigel Thompson, CPRE president at that time, was a major proponent of Saint Helena Airport and associated luxury resorts, which would destroy much of the most important habitat on that island. See that article for details.
- ^ "George Monbiot meets ... Shaun Spiers". The Guardian (London). 2008-12-18. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2008/dec/18/monbiot-cpre-wind-coal. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- ^ http://www.cpre.org.uk/campaigns/natural-resources
- ^ Climate change and natural resources: Minerals 
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