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Energy»'More Beautiful' Countryside by 2026

»Friday, June 5,2009

An English countryside filled with more woodlands and wildflowers and less light pollution, where children get their knees dirty and people eat local food may sound like a trip down memory lane.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has unveiled its vision of how it believes it could be part of the future too.

Outlining how it wants England to look in 2026, the organisation's centenary year, the CPRE called for a countryside which is "more beautiful, more varied and more tranquil" than it is now.

Instead of being under threat, it would be a "huge national asset" to be enjoyed by all, according to the CPRE's manifesto which has been drawn up over the past two years.

The CPRE's chief executive Shaun Spiers said there was "unrelenting pessimism" among the public that the countryside will not survive the pressures of development, the impacts of globalisation and climate change.

But he said the organisation was confident that with the right political and community leadership and a consensus on how to look after rural heritage, the countryside could be improved.

And, according to the CPRE, farmers, families and campaigners are already leading the way with low-carbon housing and small-scale renewable energy, backing local food production and working to preserve the natural world.

The 2026 - A Vision for the Countryside manifesto lays out how a richer countryside would be part of an England where priorities have changed, so that economic growth is no longer an end in itself and there is a new focus on quality of life and green living.

As a result, there would be a more democratic planning system which ensures environmentally sustainable and sensitive developments, including energy efficient rural buildings and small green power schemes.

There would also be a devolution of power to local authorities, and land use decisions would be taken locally.

The vision includes the greening of England's towns and cities, better links to the Green Belt and countryside and the provision of two million high-quality homes, which would be seen as principally for living in rather than as an investment.

There would be less "hypermobility", with people travelling shorter distances to access to local services including shops and schools, walking and cycling more and benefiting from a revival of rural railways.

The CPRE also wants to see children engaging more with nature, climbing trees, playing conkers and getting their knees dirty.

Most of the English countryside would be farmed, but farmers would be paid to conserve the landscape, leading to a resurgence of species which had been in decline.

And there would be more woodlands, linked together with hedgerows, and the creation of new wetlands, while some remote upland areas would be left to go wild. Coastlines would be better managed to protect against rising sea levels.

The vision also said there should be less light pollution as a result of better-designed and more energy efficient lighting.

The CPRE drew up the manifesto for 2026 after contributions from politicians, other environmental and countryside groups, the organisation's members and hundreds of comments from the public.

CPRE president Bill Bryson wrote in the manifesto: "It is inexpressibly vital that we carefully manage and enhance a landscape that is so rare and dangerously finite.

"A healthy farming industry, a 'greener' Green Belt and planning decisions that take environmental, social and climate change considerations into account are critical ambitions for our countryside."

The CPRE's vice president, broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, said: "The countryside is ours, and is the place where everyone can be inspired and challenged.

"In 2026, we hope that everybody will realise that 'our national backyard' is crucial to us all: not only is it a place to relax, work, live and play, but as the sources of our food with a major role to play in protecting wildlife and meeting the challenge of climate change."







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