Welcome to CPRE Debates

Thanks for visiting CPRE’s new debates blog. We’ll be launching our first debate, on how we should use the land, soon after our 80th Anniversary Conference on Friday 9 March. David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, will be setting out his vision for land use in the future at the conference. We will post the text of his speech on this blog for you to read and comment on. CPRE’s Chief Executive, Shaun Spiers, will respond to David Miliband’s speech and your comments, and we hope he and David Miliband will wrap things up with a final word.

Please check back here on and after 9 March for further information!


7 responses

  1. Sharon

    Dear CPRE,

    The countryside must be maintained at all costs. We have already lost far too much which is a tragedy. The decimation of plant and wildlife is nothing short of wicked and the ecological imbalances which are being caused between mankind and wildlife is being totally ignored by the government and all authoritative organisations.

    The ecologic catastrophe that awaits us is too bleak to contemplate and this includes the devastation of the natural food chain which will exacerbate the existing environmental pressures and will cause devastation to mankind. THIS CANNOT AND MUST NOT BE IGNORED, RIDICULED OR THROWN OUT AS AN IRRELEVANT REASON. It is a totally relevant reason, as everyone involved is fully aware.

    I trust that the annhiliation of our countryside and the life within it (including ours) will now cease.

    Yours sincerely,


    8 March, 2007 at 12:04 pm



    I have noted that the Government and the Opposition now appear to be taking a more focussed interest in environmental issues

    Thankfully, it would appear that there is now, amongst the educated, almost universal realisation that human activity is seriously damaging the environment.

    The level of damage within the UK and the wider world is increasing with the rise in population and it is self-evident that measures to reduce resource consumption and environmental damage will be negated if population levels within the UK and the wider world continue to rise unchecked. I note the destruction of this once green and pleasant land is accelerating with, for example, the Government’s plans to build yet another 100,000 homes in the driest part of the country (the South East). Furthermore, revised projections from the Government Actuary’s Department, recently published by the Office of National Statistics, suggest that the UK’s population, currently 60.2 million, will grow to over 67 million by 2031 and to 70.7 million by 2074. A population rise of 10.5 million is equivalent to roughly one-and-a-half more London’s or 57 more Luton’s (population 184,000).

    The questions that the Government needs to answer and the Opposition needs to consider are as follows:

    Have they yet been able, intellectually, to make the connection between population growth and environmental damage?
    If the answer to the first question is yes, why is UK immigration being allowed to exceed emigration and is there any planning on a ceiling for UK population? Or, is the UK simply being allowed to drift towards some sort of overpopulated, concreted-over hell?
    Again, if the answer to the first question is yes, what is being done at the Global level to address the issue of overpopulation? Would it not be possible to set up a body within the UN to address this issue, with representatives from each country reviewing their parochial situation and assessing what is, and what is not, sustainable?
    It is self evident that, for example, de-population of those areas that cannot effectively sustain human life is required.

    In simple terms, there is no hope for the environment in the absence of measures to ensure sustainable populations.

    May I refer you to the Optimum Population Trust, which campaigns on the whole question of what population this country and the wider world can support.: http://www.optimumpopulation.org/

    Adrian Bevan

    8 March, 2007 at 7:15 pm

  3. What about the preservation of ancient woodlands? Not much about this, ie nothing mentioned of “Keepers of Time” and it’s emphasis on the protection of these,not even by the Woodland Trust representative !!
    I would have thought some mention too,of not just density, but, also,DESIGN and the use of sustainable materials,such as wood,with reference to low carbon emission
    In Lichfield a new Police HQ is planned in the Green Belt. This will be in brick and Metal!Timber for a police station “lacks Gravitas”….
    Waitrose according to their literature at the CPRE event,stated that their design policy is to complement the local environment. In Lichfield Waitrose has ignored this ,turning it’s back on the new pastiche (UGH)Victoran/Georgian housng estate,creating a space age supermarket,looking green and fresh towards green pastures!!

    27 March, 2007 at 11:48 am

  4. Concerned

    Dear CPRE,

    I am concerned for the future of the countryside for a number of reasons. First of all the continuous emphasis by governments on economic growth without any debate as to what growth is for? The failure to realise that econimic growth does not necessarily deliver wellbeing, that the economy as it is currently fails to put a value on things which are not so easily costed such as quality of life, environmental condition, caring, volunteering in the community.

    There needs to be some major public debates which are not happening as yet for example:
    1. can we have it all? that is environmental protection with economic growth and social welbeing.
    2.No one is talking about population in relation to environemtnal footprint a very difficult and somewhat taboo subject.
    3.Can we have economic growth without resource use (decoupling).
    4.What of key land use issues, food v fuel v water storage v leisure v habitats. We talk of promoting biofuels but fail to recognise that the same land will be needed for food, we need more water storage, but what land do we give up, more development takes more land, it is a finite resource we need the debate about what we use land for and what amount we need for food? If population is to increase continuously and there are serious global sustainability issues with this, then we will need more land for food not less at a time when climate change will be reducing the viability of many areas not least much of the country’s grade 1 land in the Fens of the East of England (likely to be inundated by the sea).

    Lets have some of these debates about what we use our land for and what we are prepared to give up, for I suspect there are going to be difficult choices to be made at some point.

    In response to one of the other submissions, the UN does have a number of organisations concerned with population – the UN commission on Population and Development and the UN Fund for Population (UNFPA), information can be accessed from the UN website at http://www.un.org

    28 March, 2007 at 3:28 pm

  5. Peter Langley

    David Miliband’s thoughtful and wide-ranging speech raises some extremely important issues for the future of the countryside and the environment as a whole. Too often in the past, environmental issues have been treated as secondary to the need for development and growth. Once the development strategy is decided, planners turn their attention (too late) to mitigating the environmental impact of those decisions. In doing so they suffer from insufficient resources and lack of leadership. The result is that many good intentions founder and well-meaning environmental policies come to very little.

    David Miliband points the way to a much more effective approach in which environmental concerns (not least climate change) are fully integrated into decision-making from the start, and a positive attempt to improve the environment replaces the environmental defensiveness we often see now.

    This radical change in the planner’s mind-set will not happen unless the Government itself takes the lead. First, Mr Miliband must convince cabinet colleagues that the environment matters and is worth fighting for. Second, the Government must show by its words and deeds that it is serious. The ‘housing growth at all costs’ message of the new PPS3 must be tempered by environmental realism; transport policies (including those on aviation) must give more weight to long-term environmental sustainability than to satisfying short-term travel demand; and energy policy should strike a balance that respects a wide range of environmental concerns (including landscape and tranquillity) in addition to climate change.

    I am particularly enthused by the idea of positive environmental improvement, such as ‘putting the green back into the green belt’. We must move away from the idea of green belts as sterile buffers against development towards a much more proactive approach in which every green belt has its environmental improvement strategy. This will require a pot of money (quite modest in comparison with what is available for infrastructure and other development-related investment) and a lead organisation dedicated to the task. The seeds of this approach already exist with the work of Groundwork and (in the West Midlands) the ‘Green Arc’ initiative. Now the Government needs to pick this ball up and run with it.

    1 April, 2007 at 4:02 pm

  6. Dear CPRE

    Here at the Woodland Trust, we warmly welcome the debate on future land use initiated by the CPRE and David Miliband in recent months. This is a long overdue debate and one which is fundamental to the quality of our lives and our environment for future generations so it is important that this debate takes place throughout the whole of the UK; this is not just an issue for England.

    We were very pleased to see David Milband mentioning the importance of woodland and forests in a variety of contexts. At the Woodland Trust we are passionate about wanting to see more woodland cover, not just for the sake of it or to keep up with our European partners against whom we fare very poorly in this regard but primarily for three crucial reasons.

    Firstly, the UK needs more native woodland to restore the depleted and fragmented character of our countryside in the face of inevitable rapid environmental change; by creating new woodland to buffer our existing sites, by linking fragmented remnants of ancient and native woodland, our richest wildlife habitat, and ensuring the landscape is more sympathetic to nature generally, we can start to make our woods more resilient to climate change.

    Secondly woodland creation is important for people; woodland in the right place where little or none currently exists enhances quality of life, physically and emotionally, individually and collectively. Some of these benefits can be quantified, some cannot but it is clear that woods play a key role in shaping more attractive, healthier and prosperous places in which to live, work and enjoy leisure time.

    Thirdly, and linked to both of the previous reasons, at a time of inevitable and accelerating climate change, the ameliorating benefits of a more wooded environment in both urban and rural areas in terms of ecosystem services are manifold including biodiversity, healthy places for recreation, biomass, flood management, enhancing water quality, soil protection, climatic moderation in towns through cooling of buildings and providing shade, limited sequestration of carbon and enhancing urban environments by trapping of particulate pollutants and noise reduction.

    Put bluntly more woodland means more of these benefits especially where woods are located in the right place. There is a great opportunity here and now to articulate all of this within the forthcoming England Trees Woods and Forest Strategy due out this summer.

    But we are not just concerned about increasing woodland cover in isolation from other land uses. The growing acceptance of the need to work at a landscape scale to secure a viable future for our native and soon to be native wildlife means we need a countryside where less intensive and more extensive farming and forestry practices are king. A countryside where wetlands, grassland, heathland, scrub, and woodland are protected and restored and where they can function ecologically together across whole landscapes and thereby ‘connect’ seamlessly with each other underpinned by a designation system which recognises the change which is already afoot.

    A countryside fit for wildlife is is also one which is compatible with the demands of post climate change living. We need more renewable energy from new and existing crops, produced to rigorous assurance standards, and from wind farms, we need more investment in public transport infrastructure, we need sustainable communities, we need to reduce food miles and encourage more sustainable food production at home. Yet by failing to see wildlife rich woods, heaths, wetlands and grassland as part of the bigger picture on land-use in the UK we are in danger of cutting ourselves off from the very life-blood on which we all depend, a healthy, functioning natural environment. Action to help it adapt to change can also provide the kind of simultaneous environmental, economic and social gains which are the hallmark of a flourishing society in the 21st century.

    3 April, 2007 at 6:47 am

  7. Howartd Elcock

    General comments:
    1. There is much to welcome in David Miliband’s speech but as so often with this Governemnt, we must make sure he and others carry out the commitments he makes therein.
    2. The Government is far too inclined to listen to the business community at the expense of everyone else – witness the Barker Review of Planning. We need to persuade Tony Blair’s successor, whoever he or she may be, not to respond in a panicky, subservient way to the right wing agenda of e.g. the CBI and the Institute of Directors.

    Now a few detailed comments:
    Page 2 para 4 The commitment to communitarian values here is most welcome, especially in the light of the individualistic philosophies identified in Adam Curtis’s recent TV programmes.
    Page 3 para 3. Part of the problem is the “North-South Divide”. The north has more space, more vacant houses and a better life-style than the South-East but we do not seem to be able to convince high tech industries etc to move to the North. In particular, there are great opportunities to develop R & D outfits based on the Northern universities but little seems to happen about doing this and reducing the pressure on the M4 and M11 corridors.
    3. page 5 last line – the commitment to more wind farms will worry some of our members, especially in Durham and Northumberland. A wider range of renewable energy technologies needs to be explored.
    Pages 6-7 The idea of “turqiose belts” is interesting – a good example would be the campaign by CPRE Stockton to establish a “green wedge” along the River Tees. More power to their elbows!
    In the last para of p 7, Sir John Harman made the point recently that carbon reduction does not equal an ecological policy – we need a wider range of policies here.
    p 8 end 1st para: the RTPI mproposed a National Spatial Strategy a few years back – is this worth exploring with them? However, local decisions should reflect national benefits but should not be subjected to national control.
    Last para: Natural England may develop into a “powerful new champion of the countryside” but it seems to be badly constrained by budgetary problems at present. A case for the CSR?
    page 9 para 2: the point about the dangers inherent in incremental decision-making is well taken – this is why we need national, regional and local spatial and environmental strategies! The mechanisms already exist for such strategic thinking – RSS, RES, Regional Transport and Environmental Strategies etc but they need co-ordinating. the East Midlands Integrated Regional Strategy is a valuable example that other regions should consider copying.

    4 April, 2007 at 11:22 am