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21st Jan 2020 New housing developments slammed

The design of new housing developments in England is overwhelmingly ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’, with less-affluent communities the worst affected, according to a national audit conducted by UCL for CPRE and the Place Alliance.

A housing design audit for England reveals that 75% of new housing development should not have gone ahead due to ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’ design.

Download the full audit here.

The report, an audit of over 140 housing developments built across England since 2007, found that one in five of these developments should have been refused planning permission outright as their poor design was contrary to advice given in the National Planning Policy Framework. A further 54% should not have been granted permission without significant improvements to their design having been made first.

The audit also found that:

  • Less affluent communities are ten times more likely to get worse design, even though better design is affordable;
  • Low-scoring housing developments scored especially badly in terms of character and sense of place, with architecture that does not respond to the context in which it is located;
  • The worst reported aspects of design include developments dominated by access roads and the poor integration of storage, bins and car parking, leading to unattractive and unfriendly environments with likely negative health and social implications;
  • Some gains have been made - schemes scored relatively highly for safety and security and were also typically successful at integrating a variety of sizes of house.

Professor Matthew Carmona (The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL) Chair of the Place Alliance, who led the research, said: “Research has consistently shown that high quality design makes new residential developments more acceptable to local communities and delivers huge social, economic and environmental value to all, yet we are still failing in this regard across England.

“Planning authorities are under pressure to deliver new homes and are therefore prioritising numbers in the short-term over the long-term negative impacts of bad design. At the same time, house builders have little incentive to improve when their designs continue to pass through the planning system. Some highways authorities, meanwhile, do not even recognise their role in creating a sense of place for communities.   

“Collectively, house builders, planning authorities and highways authorities need to significantly raise their game. This can’t come soon enough”.

Tom Fyans, Campaigns and Policy Director at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The Government has presided over a decade of disastrous housing design and must raise standards immediately. This research is utterly damning of larger house builders and their failure to build the homes our communities deserve. They must significantly raise their game if we are to create the sorts of places that future generations will feel proud to call home. It’s no wonder so many of our communities feel apprehensive towards new development when the design is so poor. That’s why significantly improving the quality of design is central to addressing the housing shortage."

Recommendations from the research

The audit proposed a range of recommendations for the Government, house builders and local government. Amongst these the research found strong benefits in designing at higher densities than is the norm.  The Government should be more prescriptive in seeking less sprawling densities, as more compact developments tend to be designed more sensitively. It should require highways design that helps to create high quality, characterful places.

Housebuilders need to drive greater ambition across the sector in order to advance a more ethical approach to the design of development that prioritises the long-term social wellbeing of their customers and the health of the environment at large.

Local authorities need to use proactive design codes – design parameters established for each site – and design review processes for all major housing schemes. Local authorities also need to end the current disconnect between highways design and planning aspirations when it comes to new housing areas. 

Schemes which do not meet minimum requirements should be refused on design grounds and this should be supported, without question, by the Government regardless of progress towards meeting housing targets in the area.


You can view the geographically specific documents here.



The full report can be found here: 

The 142 audited developments were broken down geographically as follows: South East, 21; Greater London, 20; East of England, 19; East Midlands, 19; South West, 16; North West, 14; Yorkshire and Humber, 12; North East, 11; West Midlands, 10.

The audited schemes were chosen because they reflect the typical volume housebuilder product. The average size of schemes audited was 382 units (dwellings) and the average site size was 11 hectares.

The research was funded by UCL through the Place Alliance, the CPRE and the Laidlaw Scholarship Programme. The authors acknowledge the support of the advisory group, supporting consultancies and network of volunteer auditors.

The advisory group was made up of individuals from CPRE, Home Builders Federation, UK Green Building Council, Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, Civic Voice, ARUP, Design Council, Academy of Urbanism / URBED and Urban Design Group.  The supporting consultancies were ARUP, JTP, Spawforths and URBED.

Matthew Carmona, Amer Alwarea, Valentina Giordano, Anastassia Gusseinova, Fola Olaleye, A Housing Audit for England, will be published on the UCL Place Alliance website on Tuesday 21st January 2020 at 00:01 UK time / 19:01 on Monday 20th January EST, and is under a strict embargo until then.


For more information or to speak to the researchers involved, please contact:

Mark Greaves, UCL Media Relations. E: T: 020 3108 6995, M. Mobile: 07539 410 389

Jonathan Jones, Media Lead, CPRE, the countryside charity, E:, T: 020 7981 2819, M: 07739 332796

9th Jan 2020 Call to re-think Loxley housing plans

We've just responded to a pre-application consultation by Patrick Properties on their draft plans to re-develop the huge derelict Hepworth's factory site in the Loxley Valley on the edge of Sheffield. The developers held two consultation events in December and asked those concerned to comment by 8 January.
Whilst we welcomed some positive aspects of the proposed development, we continue to have some very big concerns about the impact of building such a large number of houses in a green belt location with few facilities and poor infrastructure.
We also have grave concerns about the poor carbon/climate change credentials of the current proposals, in the face of the climate emergency. We're hoping they will come back with a much improved scheme when they apply for permission in the spring.
You can see our press release below and download our detailed comments here.


CPRE calls for re-think of Loxley housing plans

Countryside campaigners in Sheffield are urging property developers to rethink plans to build an isolated and unsustainable village on green belt land that borders the Peak District National Park.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warns that the new settlement on the old Hepworths factory site in the heart of the Loxley valley could become an unsustainable enclave, pushing up the city’s carbon footprint as villagers travel elsewhere in their cars to meet their everyday needs.

Development company Patrick Properties have announced plans to build a “sustainable new community” of up to 350 houses on the long-abandoned factory site along the River Loxley, less than half a mile from Sheffield’s border with the national park.

They faced angry opposition from local residents when they unveiled their plans at a one-day public exhibition at Stannington Community Centre last week.

Patrick say their proposals are the only way of funding a clean-up of derelict refractory works that were abandoned by Hepworths in the early 1990s.

But the CPRE say they share residents’ concerns and are urging Patrick to scale down their plans, so that they are more in keeping with a sensitive green belt site, and less dependent on car journeys to reach local services like shops, schools and doctors’ surgeries.

“Patrick Properties asked for residents’ views; now we encourage them to listen to them and to heed their concerns,” said Andy Tickle, Head of Campaigns at CPRE South Yorkshire.

“This large new housing estate would fundamentally change the character of the Loxley valley, often for the worse” he said.

“Whilst the proposals could improve some aspects of the site itself, the wider impacts on local communities and the National Park have been either under-estimated or ignored.”

Dr Tickle said there were some welcome features to the draft scheme, including fast broadband workspace, extensive tree planting and enhanced rights of way alongside the River Loxley, but he feared many crucial issues would not be covered in the application. 

“So far there is little commitment to ensuring the development is climate-friendly,” he said.

“We’re also concerned that the development will be very car dependent and few measures have been proposed to alleviate traffic impacts in the valley and beyond.”

The CPRE have been in dialogue with Patrick Properties and Sheffield City Council about the site for over a year and had agreed with the council that only an award-winning, visionary scheme would be good enough for this sensitive green belt location.

CPRE have stressed throughout that an outline planning application, where much of the final detail is omitted, is unacceptable.

“When we are facing a climate emergency with radical carbon cuts needed by 2030, this development must be very low carbon from the start,” said Dr Tickle. “The current proposals are seriously deficient in this respect and on many other key issues.”

The pre-application consultation will last until Wednesday January 8th – see - after which Patrick Properties intend to submit an outline planning application to the City Council.

16th Dec 2019 Future generations at risk of losing benefit of our county farms

Council-owned county farms are in terminal decline, which means future generations of young farmers – and our communities more broadly - won’t benefit from these wonderful assets, according to a new report launched today by CPRE, the countryside charity. 

County farms were set-up at the end of the 19th century to provide a way into farming for young farmers and have a huge potential to generate income, provide an opportunity to promote innovative farming methods and deliver environmentally sustainable farming to help tackle the climate emergency.

Their decline is significant with the area of county farms in England falling by over half from 426,000 acres to just under 209,000 acres since the late 1970s – as a result of privatisation, austerity and short-term thinking by governments and councils. More than 15,000 acres (7%) of council-owned farmland has been lost in the past decade alone; with 60% of this land sold off in the past two years. This alarming trend, warns the report, could continue unless new legislation that protects county farms for future generations is introduced. 

However, the key findings from Reviving county farms, which is a report prepared for CPRE by the New Economics Foundation, Shared Assets and Who Owns England?, show that:

  • More than 50% of county farm estates have disappeared over the past 40 years;
  • More than 15,000 acres (7%) of this has been lost in the past decade alone;
  • Almost 60% of county farm land sold since 2010 has been in the past two years;
  • Austerity, coupled with a sense that county farms are ‘a thing of the past’, and an unwillingness by some councils to innovate to develop new income streams or business models, is driving the decline of county farms;
  • Councils that have taken very different approaches, leading them to protect and even expand their county farm estates, have yielded positive results;
  • County farms could play an important role in addressing the climate emergency and also deliver benefits to local communities, such as providing locally-grown food for nearby schools; and
  • Seven out of nine councils that responded to the survey gave details of environmental and social benefits provided by their county farms, ranging from tree planting, to local education initiatives, to supporting new farmers.

Whitehall Farm’s innovative approach

Whitehall Farm is a 100 hectare farm owned by Cambridgeshire County Council and managed by Stephen Briggs on a 15-year tenancy, along with over 300 hectares of other land. Stephen has taken an innovative agroforestry arable crops approach to build the profitability, resilience and sustainability of the farm. 

Stephen has interplanted arable crops with 4,500 apple trees that provide an income, protect soil and also growing crops from the risk of extreme weather as a result of the climate emergency.  Wildlife and birds such as tree sparrows, reed buntings, yellowhammers, English partridge and owls are also flourishing in the natural habitat farmland.

Stephen and his wife Lynn have also opened Harvest Barn farm shop and café on their county farm site. The shop sells local and certified organic fresh fruit and vegetables from the farm as well as locally sourced lamb, beef and pork, cakes and biscuits, jams and preserves.

Stephen Briggs, Farmer, Whitehall Farm, said: "Thanks to the county farms system, I have been able to run my own farm and try an innovative and successful soils-based farming approach. The support I have received from my local county council has been invaluable. I’d like to see all local authorities encourage new entrants with fresh ideas and perspectives like myself to go into agriculture to keep this wonderful resource in the community as a vital asset. There are economic incentives for councils too as the rent from our county farm and its innovative diversifications goes straight back to the county council, helping fund front line services."

Graeme Willis, agriculture lead at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Whitehall Farm is a great example of a county farm having an economic, environmental and social impact. Our research shows that the number of county farms in England alarmingly continues to plummet, at a time when these wonderful assets should be protected, and invested in, to ensure they’re available for future generations.

“CPRE is calling on the new government to introduce legislation to stop the sale of county farms and to give them a new purpose. A package of measures and new funding to enable councils to enhance, invest in their estates and better promote them is urgently needed. CPRE wants to see county farms recognised locally and nationally for their potential to address the climate emergency and deliver wider public benefits to meet the needs of their communities.”

Kate Swade, report co-author, said: “The sell-off of the county farms estate is a national tragedy, squandering a public resource that is crucial to getting fresh blood into farming. Enough is enough: it's time the new government halted the sale of county farms and invested in them properly for the future.”

For further information contact Media Relations Lead, Faith Mall or call 020 7981 2819


1.       A copy of Reviving county farms can be downloaded here

2.       New Model Farming

4th Dec 2019 We're looking for volunteers

Would you like to help with our National Lottery Heritage funded project to catalogue, conserve, interpret and digitise our archive? This charity has been in existence since 1924 and we’re planning to make our fascinating history accessible to the public.

CLICK HERE to find out more.


28th Nov 2019 School visits to the countryside could secure parent vote

With the climate emergency high on the general election agenda, a survey by CPRE, the countryside charity, has revealed that 96% of parents think it is important for children to experience green spaces first-hand and spend time in the natural world.

Findings reveal that political parties could harness ‘parent power’ to get them over the finishing line at the forthcoming general election by making it mandatory for every school child to visit the countryside, as part of the national curriculum.

The survey of 2,000 parents across England, carried out by OnePoll, and commissioned by CPRE, reveals that:

85% of parents in England think that every schoolchild should be able to experience the countryside first-hand as part of the national curriculum;

96% think it is important for children to spend time in the natural world, including the countryside (with 69% saying this is very important and 27% saying it is quite important)

The top five reasons cited by parents for why children should spend time in nature were:

  1. Boost physical health (74%)
  2. Learn more about nature and science (74%)
  3. Boost their mental health (70%)
  4. Experience the thrill of observing wildlife first-hand (65%)
  5. Understand why we should protect the countryside (64%)

Separate research by CPRE shows that 36% of England’s population live too far from the current network of 10 National Parks and 34 AONBs for these areas to be classified as easily accessible.

CPRE has included improved access to green spaces for everyone in their 12 recommendations for how the next government can harness the potential of the countryside to promote a healthier economy and happier communities.

Children’s author and co-founder of Farms for City Children Michael Morpurgo, and business woman and environmentalist Emma Bridgewater have added their voices to this call to action. They would like to see the next government make sure that everyone, including every schoolchild, has access to national parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB).

Emma Bridgewater, President of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: 

“Younger people are leading the way in changing the way we treat our planet. Programmes like Blue Planet have done so much to raise awareness of the need to recycle and have succeeded in building awareness of the impact of climate change among children and young people.

But we all have a responsibility to continue to support children on their journey towards making our world truly sustainable. We have many amazing green spaces on our doorstep, which benefit everyone in so many ways – by improving their mental health, physical wellbeing through the ability to experience nature first-hand. What is needed is decisive action from the next government that will ensure all children can access these treasured areas and green landscapes.”

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The climate emergency is high on the political agenda and yet the recently-published political party manifestos suggest that policy makers have failed to recognise how experiencing nature directly links with the desire and will to combat the climate emergency. The research also shows that parents see the countryside as good for children’s health and well-being.

“CPRE therefore urges the next government to introduce measures to improve access to the countryside for all, including the 30 million who have the Green Belt on their doorstep, so our green spaces can be a focal point for experiencing, learning about and investing in our environment.”

19th Nov 2019 Countryside-loving millennials will vote to save the countryside

Countryside-loving millennials could swing the General Election in favour of the political party that has policies most likely to protect and enhance the countryside. 
A new poll commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity, reveals that:
  • Overall, 60% of people said they would be more likely to vote for a political party that wants to protect and enhance the countryside, including the Green Belt, and just 1% say they would be less likely
  • This percentage figure rises to 71% of people aged 25-34
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of 35-44 year olds and 57% of 45-54 year olds said policies relating to the countryside would affect their decision in the polling booth
The research is published on the same day as CPRE’s countryside manifesto, which includes 12 recommendations for how the next government can harness the potential of the countryside to promote a healthier economy and happier communities.
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:
“This research turns long-held assumptions on their heads with millennials and Londoners being most likely to vote with the countryside in mind. More and more young people are aware of the need to invest in their health and well-being, which is something that the countryside can deliver. 
The survey results show overwhelmingly that protecting and enhancing the countryside is an issue that resonates with people of all ages and in all regions. It shows that countryside issues could be one of the deciding factors in determining which political party forms the next government. 
CPRE therefore urges all political parties to put measures to protect and enhance our countryside front and centre of their manifestos to ensure that our treasured landscapes will be available for now and future generations to come.”
A breakdown of statistics by region can be downloaded here. A regional breakdown of statistics by age, gender and region is available on request.
The online survey of 2,000 English adults (who are parents) was commissioned by CPRE and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society's code of conduct. Data was collected between 08/11/2019 and 13/11/2019. All participants are double-opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team, who are members of the MRS and have corporate membership to ESOMAR.

5th Nov 2019 The end of fracking?

We are delighted that the threat of fracking to our countryside, climate and communities now appears to be averted, with the Government's recent decision to issue no further fracking licences. This would not have happened without the brave and sustained campaigns led by local communities, notably at Harthill and Woodsetts in Rotherham and Marsh Lane, near Eckington. We were proud to have shared our planning expertise with them, fought shoulder to shoulder alongside them at three public inquiries and to have worked regionally and nationally with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, 38degrees, and others to oppose this insidious new form of fossil fuel.

But more clarity is needed as to what the 'ban' means in reality. For example, INEOS have permission to drill at Harthill and Marsh Lane. Can they still carry out these damaging developments, as they would not involve any high volume fracking, just 'exploration'? The fracking industry trade body, UKOOG, stated on BBC Look North that 'all current and planned sites are on hold'. Until this is confirmed by INEOS and other operators, we must remain vigilant. 

Meanwhile, we are clear that, to avert the worst impacts of climate change on our local countryside, fracking has no role in our low carbon future.




  • Government ends support for fracking in the UK on the basis of new scientific analysis
  • Oil and Gas Authority report published today concludes that it is not possible with current technology to accurately predict the probability of tremors associated with fracking
  • Separate proposals to change the planning process for fracking sites will no longer be taken forward at this time

Fracking will not be allowed to proceed in the UK, the Government has announced today, following the publication of new scientific analysis.

Ministers took the decision on the basis of a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), which found that it is not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

Fracking already takes place across the world including in the US, Canada and Argentina. However, exploratory work to determine whether shale could be a new domestic energy source in the UK, delivering benefits for our economy and energy security, has now been paused - unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here.

Ministers have always been clear that the exploration of the UK’s shale gas reserves could only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and of minimal disturbance to those living and working nearby. For that reason, Government introduced tight planning controls through the Infrastructure Act 2015 and set strict limits on seismicity, in consultation with industry.

On the basis of the disturbance caused to residents living near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire and this latest scientific analysis, the Government has announced a moratorium on fracking until compelling new evidence is provided.

The Government also confirmed today that it will not be taking forward proposed planning reforms for shale gas developments at this time. These proposals were consulted on in 2018 but will not be implemented now. 

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration in the UK must be carried out safely. In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.

“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.

“For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”

Other sources of natural gas will continue to contribute to the UK’s diverse energy mix. The Committee on Climate Change has previously said that there will still be a requirement for natural gas in a 2050 net zero economy.

Maintaining diverse gas supplies, for use during the transition as the UK renewable sector grows – or for the production of hydrogen – remains a priority for this Government. 

Business, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The Committee on Climate Change’s advice is clear that natural gas will continue to have a key role to play as we eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, including for the production of hydrogen. However, following our action today, that gas will need to come from sources other than domestic fracking.

“Today’s decision will not in any way impact our energy supply. The UK benefits from one of the most active gas markets in the world, with security ensured through diverse sources - including domestic offshore production, pipelines from Europe and liquid natural gas terminals.”

The Traffic Light System was introduced in 2012 as an evidence-based method of regulating seismicity caused by shale gas exploration. It has operated at Preston New Road, allowing the OGA to swiftly put a halt to activity when required – including after several significant events this summer.

Oil and Gas Authority Director of Regulation Tom Wheeler said: “Since the OGA suspended hydraulic fracturing at Preston New Road we have been considering whether the operator’s plans are still appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity. The OGA’s considerations have been informed both by the seismic events and by independent scientific analysis of data from the first Preston New Road well. 

“Based on these, the OGA believes that further detailed geomechanical analysis would be needed before we could evaluate with confidence whether hydraulic fracturing could resume in the Fylde, or elsewhere, consistent with the Government’s policy aims.”

1st Nov 2019 We're looking for a research and interpretation co-ordinator...

… for our archive project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund.

We’re offering £9,000 for 30 days work for the duration of the project (November 2019 to November 2020).

Working with the project archivist and a team of volunteers, the successful applicant will research the archive collection to discover stories of campaigns and campaigners from the charity’s history.

CLICK HERE for more details.

TO APPLY: please apply by email to by 12noon on Tuesday 12th November, explaining your suitability for the role and any relevant experience. Interviews will be held on Thursday 21st November.

14th Oct 2019 Only 1 in 10 homes built on land released from the Green Belt are ‘affordable’

Only 1 in 10 homes built on land released from the Green Belt over the past decade are ‘affordable’ according to a new report: "Space to Breathe, A State of the Green Belt" report published by CPRE on Monday 14 October.

The reports says that harmful development on the Green Belt, often in the guise of providing ‘affordable’ homes, is squandering this valuable asset at a time when it is needed for our own health and well-being, and to address the climate change crisis.

Key findings of the "Space to Breathe, A State of the Green Belt" report show that: 

  • In the past decade, only 1 in 10 new homes built on land released from the Green Belt are considered ‘affordable’, showing that building on the Green Belt is not the solution to the affordable housing crisis
  • This trend looks set to continue in the future as our research shows that there are proposals for a further 266,000 homes on undeveloped Green Belt land in advanced local plans, and only a third of these are likely to be classified as ‘affordable’ according to local policies
  • Development on the Green Belt is inefficient and land hungry, with the average density of homes within the Green Belt just 14 dwellings per hectare, compared to an average of 31 outside these designated green areas.

CPRE’s recommendations include: 

  • Better and existing solutions to fix the housing crisis such as building on brownfield sites
  • Enhancement of the Green Belt so it is valued as much by local authorities, government and developers, as it is by local communities
  • Stronger evidence-based tests for planning proposals. 

Tom Fyans, Deputy Chief Executive of CPRE said: ‘Building homes on the Green Belt is not the answer to the housing crisis. Indeed, in terms of the Green Belt, it’s clear that we are reaching a tipping point. The increasing number of new homes proposed on the Green Belt has continued to rise since the report was first undertaken in 2012, despite the fact that these homes are not delivering promised affordable housing. We must not allow our Green Belt to be gobbled up, but instead focus on building affordable homes in which young struggling families can actually live.

The Green Belt is also the countryside next door to 30 million people in some of our largest towns and cities. The countryside around our urban areas provide a huge opportunity to help us in our efforts to address the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, while supporting the improved health and well-being of everyone. 

There are better ways to tackle the housing crisis exist, such as a ‘brownfield first’ policy. Our research shows that there is enough brownfield land to make way for more than 1 million homes. CPRE is calling on the government to start implementing new and existing positive solutions now to ensure that future generations can enjoy these much loved landscapes.’

1. Download a copy of the "Space to Breathe, A State of the Green Belt" Report here.

2. State of Brownfield 2019 can be downloaded here.

2nd Oct 2019 We're recruiting a Planning Officer

We’re looking for a Planning Officer to develop our planning work. As part of a staff team of five people plus volunteers, the post holder will be responsible for our work on Local Plans and contributing to campaigns.

The deadline for applications is Friday 25th October. Interviews will be on Tuesday 12th November

The main tasks include:

  • Scrutinise weekly lists of planning applications from all planning authorities (7) in our area.
  • Co-ordinate planning volunteers to investigate relevant planning applications and provide input for submissions.
  • Be responsible for preparing and submitting high quality comments on applications of concern.
  • Present and defend CPRE’s/Friends’ views at public inquiries as appropriate.
  • Contribute to campaigning and profile raising objectives

For more details an application form, click here.

Or, for an informal chat about the role, please call us on 0114 279 2655.

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