It claims some credit for the slow shift of agricultural policies across Europe away from a price-support philosophy to one of environmental stewardship, a policy shift begun in England. Campaigns against noise and light pollution have been pursued over recent years, and CPRE is now focusing on "tranquillity" as a key aspect of the countryside which CPRE wants to see protected in England’s planning policies.
In fact these policy initiatives were mostly ineffective. Despite its many strident warnings, only one tenth of England is built up.
Critics characterise CPRE as
These criticisms have probably come about because the branch and district groups often oppose developments in their local area and the national organisation resists major increases in built development in the countryside. When questioned about this at CPRE's volunteer conference in 2007 Bill Bryson stated that it was vital that if somebody wishes to build in an area the people to whom it means the most are properly consulted. Additionally, many doubt that their goals of extending subsidized infrastructure and services to rural areas (such as more post offices) would make fiscal sense without further settlement of those rural areas.
In addition there are CPRE branches in each of England’s counties and groups in over 200 districts. All but two of the 43 CPRE branches are independent charities of their own. CPRE Durham and CPRE Northumberland are subsidiaries of national CPRE.
CPRE’s current campaigns include:
CPRE was formed following the publication of “The Preservation of Rural England” by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in 1926. Sir Patrick became its Honorary Secretary. Its first campaign was against the spread of ribbon developments which it saw as carving up the countryside. It also began arguing the case for protecting areas of England’s most beautiful countryside, and for setting up Green Belts to preserve the character of towns and give town dwellers easy access to the countryside.
Its campaigning helped lead to the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
When England’s first motorway the M1 was proposed in 1957 CPRE successfully campaigned for it to avoid the heart of Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire (the road was put into a cutting). Similarly when the M4 was built in 1963 CPRE successfully fought to protect the Berkshire Downs. It also began at this time to seek for tighter control on advertising hoardings along roadsides.
In 1985 in a campaign to reform the EC’s Agricultural Structures Directive, CPRE stopped funding for many damaging agricultural activities and secured the first “green” farm payments. In 1988 it helped persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to scrap tax incentives favouring blanket conifer plantations in scenic areas.
In 1990 the Government’s first ever Environment White Paper accepted the case for hedgerow protection, 20 years after CPRE’s campaign was first launched, and in 1997 laws to protect hedgerows finally came into force.
In 1995 CPRE published “tranquillity” maps which show the diminishing areas of the countryside not disturbed by man-made noise, visual intrusion or light pollution. These were updated using a pioneering new methodology in 2006. CPRE also published similar maps focusing solely on light pollution in 2003.
In April 2006 CPRE Peak District & South Yorkshire sought to clarify its identity across its vast territory by operating under two distinct identities. Due to its long association with Peak District National Park, the organisation operates as the Friends of the Peak District in the Peak District National Park, High Peak Borough and six parishes of North East Derbyshire (Eckington, Unstone, Holmesfield, Killamarsh, Dronfield, Barlow).
In 2007 CPRE published a series of intrusion maps which highlighted areas disturbed by the presence of noise and visual intrusion from major infrastructure such as motorways and A roads, urban areas and airports. The resulting maps show the extent of intrusion in the early 1960s, early 1990s and 2007.
Other CPRE people