09/09/2005

Real countryside gone in 'a generation' warns camaigners

England could lose most of its "real countryside" within a single generation unless current trends are reversed, warns a report published today.

'Your Countryside, Your Choice' from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) considered the major influences on the English landscape and their likely long-term effects on the character and the extent of the remaining countryside.

Opening with a portrait of England in 2035 in which the countryside has all but disappeared from much of England, the report wants the government to curtail property development and encourage preservation of the natural environment.

"We cannot continue to consider the countryside as a limitless resource, infinitely able to recover from repeated damage," said Tom Oliver, CPRE's Head of Rural Policy.

"Whether it's the prospect of a new generation of roads and airports carving up what's left of the countryside, rampant new housing schemes put up with little thought to the environmental consequences, or the abandonment of farming to the tender mercies of world markets alone, the present direction of many official policies is grim. Most initiatives to protect and enhance the countryside are overwhelmed by the scale of the present threats."

The report cites a loss of countryside and highlights an urgent need for "damage assessment," claiming 21 square miles of countryside - an area roughly the size of Southampton - is lost to development every year and that the total area of 'tranquil countryside' has declined by a fifth in less than 40 years.

"What makes this all the more tragic is that so many people care passionately for the countryside, treasure the time they spend in it, and count it as a core part of this country's identity," said Mr Oliver.

The report identifies several future long-term threats that include:

house building programmes; the expansion of road freight distribution and car-dependent developments; major airport expansions; and decline in farming

'Whether it's the individual lifestyle decisions we make, the way our businesses operate or the sort of lead given by government, national, regional and local, we are all responsible. The countryside is for us all. If we want to keep it, all of us have a part to play in its survival for ourselves and for our children,' Tom Oliver concluded.

(SP/MB)

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