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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
English countryside 'almost gone'
Heather in the Yorkshire Dales
The CPRE fears scenes like these could become extinct
England faces losing most of its real countryside in a generation if current trends continue, a report claims.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England's document says rural traffic is getting heavier, bird species are dying out and farm workers are declining in number.

The group wants ministers to curb land development and to encourage local food and commodity procurement.

The government says it does not accept the "doomsday scenario", saying the countryside is "attractive".

The CPRE report - Your Countryside, Your Choice - opens with a portrait of England in 2035, when the countryside has all but disappeared.

Grim direction

It identifies severe long-term threats to the countryside as house building, road freight and car dependence, airport expansion and a decline in farming.

Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at the CPRE, said the present direction of many official policies was "grim" and environmental initiatives "overwhelmed by the scale of the present threats".

Tree sparrow numbers down by 95% since 1970, corn buntings by 85%, turtle doves by 70%
Truly dark skies
Fell from 15% to 11% of England's area between 1993 and 2000
Farm workers
81,500 left the land between 1995 and 2004
Tranquil countryside
Declined by 20% between the 1960s and 1994
Land development
Accounts for 21sq miles of countryside every year

Source: Your Countryside, Your Choice
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"We cannot continue to consider the countryside as a limitless resource, infinitely able to recover from repeated damage."

The group urged ministers to commit to building 75% of new housing on previously developed land.

They also want the government to encourage local food and commodity procurement, continue funding farmers and to end the "predict and provide" airport expansion policy.

A spokesman at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the department welcomed public debate on the issue.

"The nation as a whole, not just government, must work on all the threats which CPRE identifies," he said.

"However, we do not share CPRE's doomsday scenario. The countryside is in constant change.

"Many of the problems we see are the result of the countryside attracting hundreds of thousands of people moving there because of the attractive environment and high quality of life which it offers. They cannot all be wrong."

The CPRE is encouraging everyone who enjoys visiting the countryside to join the debate, saying the trends it has predicted are not inevitable.

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