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CPRE, the countryside charity
Abbreviation CPRE
Motto Standing up for your countryside
Predecessor Council for the Preservation of Rural England
Formation 1926
Founder Sir Patrick Abercrombie
Type Charitable organisation
Registration no. Registered charity number: 1089685
Headquarters 5–11 Lavington Street, London, SE1 0NZ
Region
England
Membership
40,000
Patron
Elizabeth II
President
Emma Bridgewater CBE
Chair
Simon Murray
Chief Executive
Crispin Truman
Staff
40
Volunteers
1,200

CPRE, the countryside charity, formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is a charity in England with over 40,000 members and supporters. Formed in 1926 by Sir Patrick Abercrombie to limit urban sprawl and ribbon development, the CPRE (until the 1960s the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and from then until 2003 the Council for the Protection 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.

Critics of CPRE accuse it of advocating an exclusionary, NIMBY approach to housing policy to artificially inflate the value of housing in the countryside and Britain as a whole, exacerbating the country's housing crisis. It has also been accused of maintaining a Luddite position on technological and land-use change.

Achievements

CPRE has influenced public policy relating to town and country planning in England, most notably in the formation of the National Parks and AONBs in 1949, and of green belts in 1955.

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.

CPRE joined the 10:10 project in 2010 in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint. One year later they announced that they had reduced their carbon emissions (according to 10:10's criteria) by 12%.

Structure

CPRE's national office is at 5–11, Lavington Street, Southwark, London. It also has offices in the eight other regions of England.

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.

Campaigns

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 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.
  • Modifying HS2 rail plans to remove all planned out-of-town interchange ("parkway") stations
  • Challenging the potential Oxford–Cambridge Expressway
  • Suggesting a range of practical measures to be adopted by central and local government in order to support local food businesses so that they can provide fair and affordable prices. Preliminary work consisted of a five-year research – 'Mapping Local Food Webs' (2007–2012).
  • Launching Star Count 2013 – a campaign to stop light pollution by involving the public in star-counting in order to map light pollution across the UK and raise awareness.
  • Reducing the impact of light pollution to reduce carbon budgets and save money (2014).
  • Launching a photography competition celebrating the beauty of Dorset's countryside (2016).
  • Supporting campaigns for farming funding that will stem loss of smaller farms and the diversity they provide (2017).
  • Campaigning against large-scale fracking operation in the UK, that will destroy large areas of the countryside and exacerbate the global plastic binge (2018).

History

CPRE was formed following the publication of “The Preservation of Rural England” by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in 1926. Sir Patrick became its Honorary Secretary. The inaugural meeting was held in December 1926 at the London offices of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was addressed by Neville Chamberlain, a future prime minister.

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 1996, English composer John Rutter wrote the words and music for an anthem entitled "Look at the World" in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the CPRE.

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.

The CPRE promotes a large number of rural properties, by means of its annual Members' Guide. The 2012 Members Guide was supported by the National Farmers Union.

In 2015, CPRE published the 'Warm and Green' report, which sheds new light on the scale of the energy problems and the solutions needed to tackle them. During the same year CPRE earned the Bankside Star by contributing significantly to the Together at Christmas gift collection campaign for the homeless, vulnerably housed and elderly people.

In 2018 after CPRE's successful 10-year campaign against drink-container litter, the Government announced the introduction of a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates. As CPRE had demanded, the scheme is set to include all single use drink-containers, whether plastic, glass or metal.

CPRE people

  • Patron: Queen Elizabeth II
  • President: Emma Bridgewater CBE since 2016
  • Chair: Simon Murray
  • Chief Executive: Crispin Truman

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 Francis Eden, 7th Baron Henley - President 1973–1977
  • Sir Colin Buchanan – President 1980–1985
  • David Puttnam, Baron Puttnam – President 1985–1992
  • Jonathan Dimbleby – President 1992–1997
  • Prunella Scales – President 1997–2002
  • Sir Max Hastings - President 2002–2007
  • Bill Bryson - President 2007–2012
  • Andrew Motion - President 2012–2016

Regional and Local Groups

East of England

Local Branches within this Region: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk & Suffolk

North East

Local Branches within this Region: Durham & Northumberland

North West

Local Branches within this Region: Cheshire, Cumbria & Lancashire

South East

Local Branches within this Region: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, London, Oxfordshire, Surrey & Sussex

South West

Local Branches within this Region: Avonside, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire

West Midlands

Local Branches within this Region: Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire & Worcestershire

East Midlands

Local Branches within this Region: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Peak District & Rutland

Yorkshire and the Humber

Local Branches within this Region: East Riding, North Yorkshire, Northern Lincolnshire, Peak District, South Yorkshire & West Yorkshire
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