Housing and the countryside: Hilary Benn’s CPRE lecture

I am looking forward to Hilary Benn’s CPRE Lecture tomorrow. He follows a distinguished line of previous speakers, including David Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Caroline Lucas and, more recently, Greg Clark, Chris Huhne (when he was Energy and Climate Secretary) and Patrick McLoughlin


Hilary Benn made himself a CPRE hero when, as Environment Secretary, he approved the South Downs National Park, including the Western Weald. I am sure his speech tomorrow will be thoughtful and that he will grapple with the question of how England can get the housing we need without unnecessary loss of countryside. I do not expect that CPRE will agree with everything he says, but there are three areas we particularly hope he will cover.  


First, any future Labour government should seek to reinvigorate the urban renaissance. Continue reading ‘Housing and the countryside: Hilary Benn’s CPRE lecture’

Book of the month: Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery

My column in this month’s Countryman considers the devastating exposé of the global food system by Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming. In Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat there is a particularly grim chapter on overfishing in Peru, where the sea is being emptied of anchovies to make fishmeal for chickens, pigs and fish farmed across the world. Continue reading ‘Book of the month: Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery’

In defence of campaigning charities

Last week CPRE’s head of planning, Matt Thomson, wrote an excellent blog for the Conservative Home website. This rebutted an anti-CPRE polemic by a researcher for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Matt’s blog is well worth reading, but I was particularly struck by the comments from readers. As usual with Conservative Home articles on planning and development, most were supportive of CPRE’s perspective, but a significant minority questioned CPRE’s status as a charity.
‘What is CPREs mandate? Who funds them? Do they have charitable status? How much are their directors paid? Are they just a pressure group?… What is “charitable” about being a pressure group?… Pressure and lobbying groups should not be charities.’ And so on.
Such questioning of charities, particularly charities that criticise the Government, is becoming more and more common. Continue reading ‘In defence of campaigning charities’

#WasteOfSpace: the picture so far

Stonebridge Park

Stonebridge Park

CPRE has had a great response to our #WasteOfSpace campaign. In just three weeks we have received more than 100 nominations of potential brownfield sites, as well as support from public figures and politicians. The online map showing the submissions has had close to 3,000 views so far.The campaign is far from over, but its early success shows how much safeguarding our countryside and improving our towns matters to people. Continue reading ‘#WasteOfSpace: the picture so far’

Framing the housing debate

Politicians, journalists and housing campaigners have an easy frame for the debate on building new homes: we have a housing crisis (true); therefore we need to shake-up the planning system, take on the NIMBYs, and release much more greenfield and Green Belt housing for housing (a big, unexamined leap in logic). Let me give a few examples from the countless I could use. Continue reading ‘Framing the housing debate’

Small builders need help to solve the housing crisis

CPRE’s housing researcher, Luke Burroughs has just published an excellent new report, Increasing Diversity in the House Building Sector – http://bit.ly/1nuHpdo. It is the first of a series of publications aimed at provoking discussion about housing issues, and coming up with solutions. You can read my blog about Luke’s pamphlet on the Telegraph website: http://bit.ly/1tzzACD.

#wasteofspace: help CPRE identify brownfield land suitable for housing

CPRE is running a big new campaign to identify brownfield sites that could be used for housing. We want to produce a map showing the thousands of empty sites and unused buildings going to waste across England.

The campaign, #WasteOfSpace, will run for six months, as we also conduct research to get to the bottom of the available figures for brownfield land. Our last report on the issue calculated that there was enough brownfield land for 1.5 million new homes. A report by Civitas earlier this year put the figure at 2.5 million. The Government seems to think there is much less suitable brownfield land out there, but it has not produced any figures.

We need to know the real scope for brownfield development, and we want the general public to identify sites that may have been overlooked in official plans.    Continue reading ‘#wasteofspace: help CPRE identify brownfield land suitable for housing’


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