Archive for November, 2013

Cluttering up the countryside with roadside adverts

Here is my article in the latest issue of the Countryman.  Roadside adverts are creeping back as local authority planning departments are cut – and CPRE hates them!


I drove from London to Oakham in Rutland at the weekend.  It is not the most pleasant drive, but it was made considerably worse by sproutings of ugly roadside advertisements. 

Trying to stop billboards and trailers cluttering up the countryside and obscuring views from roads and railways has been a CPRE staple throughout our history.  CPRE’s founders wanted people to have a clear sense of when they were in the countryside and when they were in the town, and they dreaded the prospect of roadsides becoming advertising corridors, as they saw in the USA.  Continue reading ‘Cluttering up the countryside with roadside adverts’

Public service blogging: David Cameron’s CPRE lecture, uncensored

The news that the Conservative Party has deleted all pre-2010 speeches from its website and, apparently, tried to erase them from the internet, has prompted a number of organisations to post old speeches.  Perhaps it is all just a cunning ploy to get campaigning groups to give Ministers some free publicity.

In any case, as a public service here is David Cameron’s CPRE lecture on communities and the countryside, delivered on 12 May 2008.  In it he said: “The beauty of our landscape, the particular cultures and traditions that rural life sustains – these are national treasures, to be cherished and protected for everyone’s benefit.  It’s not enough for politicians just to say that – we need leaders who really understand it and feel it in their bones.  I do.”  I believe he does, but I wish he would do a bit more about it. Continue reading ‘Public service blogging: David Cameron’s CPRE lecture, uncensored’

What would Sir Herbert think?

Yesterday I got an email from a former CPRE employee musing on what Sir Herbert Grrifin, CPRE’s long-time general secretary, would have made of our short campaign film, promoting the Charter to Save our Countryside.  It prompted me to post a version of the column I wrote earlier in the year for the Countryman.  You have to get past a paragraph of the endlessly quotable Clough Williams-Ellis before you get to Sir Herbert.    


Perhaps the most colourful figure in CPRE’s early history, certainly our most colourful writer, was the architect Clough Williams-Ellis.  Bungalows, he said, ‘constitute England’s most disfiguring disease’.  And in 1933 he claimed that he ‘would certainly sooner go back for another year in wartime Ypres than spend a twelvemonth in post-war Slough’.  Better, he said, an 80% chance of death than ‘the certainty of cutting his own throat in surroundings of humiliating squalor’.  Poor Slough. 


Clough Williams-Ellis had a way with words, but without CPRE’s first general secretary, Herbert Griffin, we might not still exist.  Sir Herbert (he was knighted in 1957) ran CPRE from 1926 to 1965 and was both a tireless organiser and a passionate campaigner for ‘our one unique national possession, the ordinary English countryside’.  Continue reading ‘What would Sir Herbert think?’

Clough Williams-Ellis

Here is my column from the current issue of the Countryman.  

I wrote a few months ago about the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, an early propagandist for CPRE and one of the founders of our sister body in Wales, CPRW.  Among his many colourful turns of phrase was this description of ribbon development in England and the Octopus, the ‘denunciatory, angry’ book he wrote for CPRE in 1928: ‘The disfiguring little buildings grow up and multiply like nettles along a drain, like lice upon a tapeworm.’ 


But while he enjoyed excoriating ugliness and squalor, and shaming towns ‘into a livelier care of their amenities and a general pulling up of their sagging municipal socks’, he was also for something, namely beauty: ‘A happy awareness of beauty about us – the normal, visible setting of our everyday lives – should and could be the everyday condition of all of us.’  Continue reading ‘Clough Williams-Ellis’