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CPRE East of England


Robin Burkitt Alison Greenwood Straw bales in Norfolk




At current rates of loss, countryside free from major disturbance could all but disappear in most regions of England well before the end of the century.  Startling new maps by CPRE show that currently 50% of England is disturbed by the sight and sound of nearby roads, urban areas and other major infrastructure.  Check out the links below.


·                    The East of England is one of England’s fastest growing and fastest changing regions, once quieter with broad stretches of undisturbed countryside now the third most disturbed by noise and visual intrusion.

·                    The region has lost another 840 square miles (2,165 km˛) to disturbance from noise and visual intrusion since the early 1990s an area equivalent to half of Suffolk; now half of the region is blighted.

·                    At current rates of loss much of the remaining 50% of the region’s countryside could be blighted in just 70 years.

·                    Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk have significant reserves of undisturbed countryside but have all suffered more loss than the national average since the 1990s.

·                    Hertfordshire is the second most affected county in England with only a quarter of its area undisturbed.

Links to maps 

Intrusion - 1960s

Intrusion - 1990s

Intrusion - 2007

Intrusion - ranking by counties

Press Release 

Nationally, since the early 1990s 320 square miles (820km˛) of countryside has been overshadowed by urban intrusion every year – or the area of Greater London every two years.  At this rate much of the remaining 50% of the undisturbed countryside in England could be blighted in just 80 years.  These are the stark findings of new maps and analysis [3] which reveal the relentless intrusion of traffic and urban growth into the English countryside since the early 1960s.  The maps show that in the early 1960s 26% of England’s land area was disturbed by urban intrusion; in the early 1990s this had grown to 41%; and by 2007 50% of England was affected by urban intrusion. This shows that the rate of loss is actually increasing.

CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spiers says:

Countryside which is undisturbed by noise and development is vital for our quality of life and well-being.  These maps show what the future may hold if we don’t sufficiently value our wonderful rural landscapes.  As the shadow of intrusion stretches further and wider, the peace and quiet we need is harder to find.  It is often said that development will only take up a small percentage of England’s total land surface.  But development of all kinds fragments the countryside, undermining the qualities of , openness and immersion in the rural landscape which people most value about it.  An area will no longer be experienced as truly rural long before half its surface is developed.

The new research brings together maps for the early 1960s and 1990s with new maps and data for 2007.  They show the extent of urban intrusion, including major infrastructure such as motorways, power stations, and airports.

Shaun Spiers warned:

‘The findings of this research are a wake-up call for the Government.  It must strengthen policy to protect the remaining areas of undisturbed land and protect it for future generations.’

The maps show that major infrastructure, such as new power stations, runways and roads, has a far greater effect than the immediate land it takes: 

·  greenfield developments erode and urbanise the countryside  projecting noise and light further and wider;

·  new roads slice through undisturbed landscapes shattering their calm and disrupting habitats and wildlife;

·  aviation growth threatens hundreds of homes with demolition, imposing constant noise on tens of thousands and blighting the skies of our protected landscapes.

Yet people’s right to have their say over planning decisions on major infrastructure will be stripped away if Government proposals in the Planning White Paper are implemented.  Members of the public must be heard and environmental impacts properly considered in such significant decisions for our countryside.

To stem the future spread of intrusion CPRE is calling for stronger policies from Government including: more ambitious targets for recycling brownfield land [9]; promoting public transport as an attractive alternative to the car and halting current airport expansion plans.

Shaun Spiers concluded:

The countryside is one of our greatest national assets.  I am sure that the Government wants to protect it – but these maps show the current pace of development is seriously eroding our countryside.  The impact of development spreads way beyond its immediate footprint.  More must be done to protect what is left from further fragmentation.  The Government must act across the board to demonstrate that it takes the future of the countryside seriously.  Unless it does so, for children alive today much of our remaining undisturbed countryside will become a distant memory in their lifetimes.

These two maps, from the early 1960s and the present day, show the growth of intrusion - visual and sound.  The links above will show the maps in more detail.


*The Campaign to Protect Rural England exists to promote the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources in town and country.

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