Government urged to protect UK’s ‘rural tranquility’

The Yorkshire Dales. Picture by Tony Johnson
The Yorkshire Dales. Picture by Tony Johnson
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Mass light switch offs, quieter road surfaces and increased tree-plating are among the recommendations made to the Government to “value and protect the character of the countryside”.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today argues that exposure to nature and rural tranquillity is good for our health and wellbeing, calling the countryside “part of our natural health service”.

The CPRE argues that, along with other natural resources, rural tranquillity has been depleted over many years and is now under more pressure than ever.

It cites the announcement by the Government last year of a £15 billion Road Investment Strategy, the largest roads programme since the 1970s, designed to create thousands of miles of new and widened roads.

The forthcoming Airports Commission recommendations for a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick would in the CPRE’s view, potentially project more flights and noise onto either huge swathes of the Chilterns AONB and the Green Belt in West London.

It also expresses concern over the 220,000 homes proposed for Green Belt areas alone as well as 1200 hectares for industry.

In a policy document publish this morning the CPRE says that rural tranquillity needs to be at the heart of national planning policy and that the Government should deliver on its commitment to “develop environmentally sensitive infrastructure”.

An extract reads: “Tranquillity is a central part of why the countryside matters deeply to so many people and the reason many want to spend time there.

“Being able to take a peaceful walk, cycle or ramble in tranquil countryside or hike along a national trail adds immeasurably to many people’s quality of life.

It reduces our stress levels, improves our mood and makes us feel better.”

The CPRE recommends that local councils should identify within their plans areas of tranquillity which can be protected and promoted.

In particular it suggests using quieter road surfaces, managing traffic to reduce noise and utilising landscaping and tree planting to reduce visual intrusion.

It even suggests that light pollution could be cut by councils agreeing to light- switch-off schemes.

A spokesman for the CPRE said: “Tranquillity is a central part of why the countryside matters deeply to so many people and the reason many want to spend time there.

Being able to take a peaceful walk, cycle or ramble in tranquil countryside or hike along a national trail adds immeasurably to many people’s quality of life.

It reduces our stress levels, improves our mood and makes us feel better.

“The Government first acknowledged tranquillity as a special quality of the countryside in 2000.

“Since then it has been recognised by bodies such as the Civil Aviation Authority in its Future Airspace Strategy, High Speed Two Ltd, and Natural England, as well as many National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

“Tranquillity is a natural resource, and an essential quality of the countryside. It is a much valued aspect of human experience that CPRE has long championed. Although found in many places, it is the countryside that gives us the best chance to experience it. It enables us to appreciate the beauty and harmony of the natural world.”