CPRE and other Countryside campaigners are urging the Government to translate positive rhetoric into decisive action on rural tranquillity. New research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), published today, shows that better data collection and a new indicator of tranquillity are needed to increase protection for England’s most peaceful areas.
In surveying a range of authorities, from National Parks to borough councils, CPRE’s Give peace a chance report shows that 90 per cent of authorities would like better guidance and new data to develop tranquillity policies. More than 90 per cent of respondents support the case for new national tranquillity maps, which CPRE believes could greatly help local authorities when new infrastructure projects are planned.
Numerous studies show that immersion in nature is good for health and wellbeing. Tranquillity is therefore a vital resource for people to relieve stress and recharge their batteries. Yet, in 2007, CPRE’s ‘intrusion’ mapping showed that such areas are getting rarer: the tranquillity of England is being increasingly fragmented by urban development and new infrastructure.
CPRE’s report finds that some planning authorities have successfully developed policies to protect tranquillity since 2012, when the Government’s flagship planning reform, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), encouraged them to do so. Yet the report indicates that few authorities outside of those set up to manage protected areas like National Parks have implemented policies protecting tranquillity – and 75% of authorities without a current policy do not plan to introduce one.
Following recent speeches from senior Conservatives advocating the importance of sensitive infrastructure design, and related manifesto commitments, CPRE is calling for Government to invest in planning guidance, an agreed definition of tranquillity, and a new “indicator” of tranquillity - including maps and supporting data.
Alongside investment from Government, CPRE would like to see infrastructure providers and regulators set up design panels, as demonstrated by HS2 and Highways England. The panels would develop good design principles aimed at mitigating the impacts of new infrastructure on rural tranquillity through methods such as putting power lines underground, tunnelling and tree planting.
To help people find their nearest tranquil spaces, and to see the most disrupted areas, CPRE is also now releasing its 2007 tranquillity maps in an interactive format. These maps are the best resource for councils to identify tranquillity in their area - yet date back nearly a decade. This highlights the urgent need for a new Government-backed indicator with data to support it.
Graeme Willis, rural campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “It’s encouraging that Government has looked afresh at how good design can reduce the impact of new infrastructure, and pledged to provide new maps of open-access green space. But our research shows that councils are unlikely to drive forward the policies we need to protect some of our most tranquil areas without better open data and guidance.
“The Coalition Government introduced a landmark national policy to protect areas of tranquillity. We’re therefore calling on the new Government to build on their manifesto commitments and invest a modest amount to enable councils to improve quality of life in their communities.”