Sunday Times Charter letter

The letter in today’s Sunday Times supporting CPRE’s charter to save our countryside was signed by many of the country’s finest artists and writers.   


In support of the Charter, Jeanette Winterson said: “We need imaginative people, not policy wonks or developers, to re-draw the UK housing strategy.  I don’t know why politicians can’t think in colour.  Especially the colour green.”  This may have concerned all CPRE’s policy wonks, but we support her drift.


Marina Lewycka captured the essence of CPRE’s approach brilliantly: “The countryside is like the lungs and cities are the heart.  We need to both to keep alive, but we need to keep them separate.  The worst thing is to let the city seep into the countryside, while allowing areas of our cities to become wasteland for growing weeds.”  (In case anyone thinks we want to develop every bit of brownfield land regardless of its importance for nature, I should make clear that CPRE is not anti-weeds.)


I’m hugely grateful to all the writers and artists who signed the letter.  Almost everyone we managed to contact agreed to sign, a tribute to how much people care about the countryside.  Here is the letter.    


In the two months since the launch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s charter to save our countryside we have seen new research showing that over half a million houses are planned for open countryside, with a further 150,000 in the Green Belt.

The scale of this projected development is unprecedented.  This needless sacrifice of our green spaces should not be tolerated when England currently has suitable brownfield land for 1.5m new homes which could help regenerate our towns and cities. 

As artists and writers who have been inspired by the matchless beauty of England, we urge the Government to support the three basic principles set out in CPRE’s charter to save our countryside. 

First, build on suitable brownfield land first, rather than unnecessarily sacrificing the countryside.  Second, real localism: give people a proper say in shaping the places they love.  Finally, we must build more houses – not executive houses on green fields, as is too often the case now, but well-designed affordable homes in the right places.

We urge your readers to support CPRE’s charter at  

Sir Andrew Motion, President, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Bill Bryson, CPRE Vice President

Simon Armitage

Julian Barnes

Sir Quentin Blake

Lord (Melvyn) Bragg

Jane Gardam

Maggi Hambling

Alan Hollinghurst

Ken Howard

John le Carre

Marina Lewycka

Dame Penelope Lively

David Lodge

Robert Macfarlane

Alice Oswald

Cornelia Parker

Philip Pullman

Rose Tremain

Jeanette Winterson

Benjamin Zephaniah

1 Response to “Sunday Times Charter letter”

  1. 1 Designalexable September 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Jeanette Winterson’s comment: “We need imaginative people, not policy wonks or developers, to re-draw the UK housing strategy” is correct. Politicians talk in terms of “units” not “people” and so can never solve the problem. It is not the number of dwellings built, but how they are configured. They need to be designed to adapt and subdivide as needed to make best use of the space – houses that can do this provide more homes with less building. A simple calculation exposes the problem: if we build 9 one bed flats and two people live in each flat, we will have provided homes for 18 people. If however, we build 6 three bed flats, each with 2 double bedrooms and a single, then we will have built homes for 24 – 30 people – even though we have built less “dwellings”. If we build a house that has built in adaptation then it can subdivide to house an elderly relative or family member with a degree of privacy. If this has been designed so that it can have its own entrance, then part of the house can be sub-let to provide an income in retirement – not only reducing the need to build homes, but reducing the full extent of the looming pensions crisis. Politicians like big numbers as it sounds as if something is happening – but as usual it is not quantity, but the quality of thought that has gone into the design.

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